Child support

210. Mature-age persons may be eligible for, or liable to pay, child support. It is possible that aspects of child support legislation and policy may create barriers to employment and other productive work for parents and non-parent carers. As noted above, the ALRC will not examine such barriers faced by parents as a group as this is beyond the scope of the reference. However, the ALRC is interested in workplace barriers that may be faced by grandparents and other mature-age non-parent carers.

211. The legislative basis of the child support scheme is the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth)and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth). Parents and non-parent carers may be eligible for child support when they provide at least 35% of care.[291] The Child Support Agency uses a legislative formula to assess how much child support a parent should pay. The assessment takes into account both parties’ income, the care arrangements, and the number of dependent children.[292] Payees may choose to collect child support privately, or for the CSA to collect and transfer child support payments on their behalf.[293]

212. Non-parent carers such as grandparents may receive, but are not liable to pay, child support. There are certain limitations on the child support eligibility of non-parent carers when there are no court orders in place providing for the care arrangements.[294] As the ALRC was advised in the Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws Inquiry, the number of non-parent carers in the child support scheme is relatively small: in December 2010 there were approximately 3,900 non-parent carers out of around 1,330,500 payers and payees in the scheme.[295]

213. The ALRC seeks comments from stakeholders as to whether aspects of the child support scheme impose barriers or limitations to mature age persons participating in the workforce and other productive work, such as voluntary work.

Question 33. What changes, if any, should be made to child support laws and The Guide—CSA’s Online Guide to the Administration of the New Child Support Scheme to remove barriers to mature age participation in the workforce and other productive work?

[291]Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) ss 5(3), 7B(1).

[292] Ibid pt 5.

[293]Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth) s 24A.

[294]Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) s 7B(2)–(3). These limitations are discussed in Australian Law Reform Commission, Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws—Improving Legal Frameworks, ALRC Report 117 (2011), ch 12. The ALRC made two recommendations addressed at repealing these limitations, or alternatively broadening the eligibility criteria for non-parent carers in certain cases: Recs 12–6, 12–7.

[295] FaHCSIA, Correspondence, 14 April 2011.