Self-administration of child support


10.22 Where a parent or carer receives no more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB Part A), he or she is not required to apply for child support. The CSA refers to such cases as self-administration, described as ‘a private arrangement between parents not involving the CSA, including cases where child support is not sought’.[26]

10.23 The Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth) provides that it should be construed, consistently with its objects, ‘to permit parents to make private arrangements for the financial support of their children’.[27]

10.24 The CSA publication, The Parent’s Guide to Child Support, includes information about the option for self-administration under the heading: ‘Child support, on your terms’. It states that

Many parents can choose to arrange child support independently without any assistance from us, the courts or other government agencies. If you are separated and receive only the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A (or you don’t receive family assistance payments at all), you and the other parent can arrange your child support to suit you, without any involvement from us. Parents who choose this option make all the arrangements—you both decide how much child support should be paid and how it should be paid. We aren’t involved. However, we can provide information and help if you need it.[28]

Submissions and consultations

10.25 Self-administered child support arrangements were not raised in the Child Support Issues Paper. However, National Legal Aid has raised some concerns about the message delivered to the community about self-administration, noting:

A recent DVD released by CSA for indigenous clients (It’s not about the Money, It’s about the Kids) downplayed the requirement for reasonable maintenance action, in order to promote the possibility of parents reaching their own agreement without CSA involvement. It suggested that ‘CSA did not have to be involved’ which would assist perpetrators to apply pressure to payees to forego child support payments.[29]

ALRC’s views

10.26 As with private collection of child support, self-administered child support arrangements may be appropriate and indeed desirable for many parents. However, private arrangements are likely to be inappropriate in cases of family violence. The maintenance of private arrangements may require ongoing contact between parties. Further, the option may enable people who use family violence to avoid child support payments by exerting pressure on the payee, and exacerbate opportunities for controlling conduct.

10.27 Such matters do not affect government expenditure in relation to increased rates of family assistance, as the self-administration option is unavailable to parents eligible for child support who receive FTB Part A at more than the base rate. However, to improve safety and the accessibility of the child support scheme, CSA involvement should be promoted in cases of family violence—including CSA collection of child support, as discussed in Chapter 9.

10.28 The ALRC considers that promotion of CSA involvement in family violence cases should be achieved though the proposals outlined in Chapter 4, namely, family violence training, screening and information sharing across agencies, and the provision of family violence-specific information to the general CSA customer base upon entry to the child support scheme.

[26] Child Support Agency, Facts and Figures 08–09 (2009), [1.6].

[27]Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth) s 4(3).

[28] Child Support Agency, The Parent’s Guide to Child Support (2009), 6.

[29] National Legal Aid, Submission CFV 81, 24 June 2011.