Chapters

9. Child Support—Frameworks, Assessment and Collection

10. Child Support—Agreements, Personal Information, Informal Carers

11. Child Support and Family Assistance—Intersections and Alignments

12. Family Assistance

 

Proposals and Questions in this Part

Proposal 9–1         The Child Support Guide should be amended to include:

(a)      the definition of family violence in Proposal 3–1;

(b)     the nature, features and dynamics of family violence including: while anyone may be a victim of family violence, or may use family violence, it is predominantly committed by men; it can occur in all sectors of society; it can involve exploitation of power imbalances; its incidence is underreported; and it has a detrimental impact on children.

In addition, the Child Support Guide should refer to the particular impact of family violence on: Indigenous peoples; those from a culturally and linguistically diverse background; those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities; older persons; and people with disability.

Proposal 9–2         The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should screen for family violence when a payee:

(a)           requests or elects to end a child support assessment;

(b)           elects to end Child Support Agency collection of child support and arrears;  or

(c)           requests that the Child Support Agency not commence, or terminate, enforcement action or departure prohibition orders.

Proposal 9–3         The Child Support Guide should provide that Child Support Agency staff refer to Centrelink social workers payees who have disclosed family violence, when the payee:

(a)      requests or elects to end a child support assessment;

(b)     elects to end Child Support Agency collection of child support and arrears; or

(c)      requests that the Child Support Agency terminate, or not commence, enforcement action or departure prohibition orders.

Proposal 9–4         The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should contact a customer to screen for family violence prior to initiating significant action against the other party, including:

(a)      departure determinations;

(b)     court actions to recover child support debt; and

(c)      departure prohibition orders.

Proposal 9–5         The Child Support Guide should provide that, when a customer has disclosed family violence, the Child Support Agency should consult with the customer and consider concerns regarding the risk of family violence, prior to initiating significant action against the other party, including:

(a)      departure determinations;

(b)     court actions to recover child support debt; and

(c)      departure prohibition orders.

Proposal 9–6         The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should screen for family violence prior to requiring a payee to collect privately pursuant to s 38B of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth).

Question 10–1               Should the Child Support Agency ensure that notices of assessment pursuant to s 76 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act) 1989 (Cth) do not include parties’ names?

Proposal 10–1        The Child Support Guide should provide that Child Support Agency forms or supporting documentation containing offensive material should be referred to a senior officer. The senior officer should determine whether to inform the other party of the offensive material and, where requested, provide it to the other party.

Proposal 10–2        The Child Support Guide should provide that, where a customer discloses family violence, he or she should be referred to a Centrelink social worker to discuss a Restricted Access Customer System classification.

Question 10–2               Should the Child Support Agency provide a Restricted Access Customer System classification to a customer who has disclosed family violence: 

(a)      at the customer’s request; or

(b)     only on the recommendation of a Centrelink social worker?

Proposal 10–3        Where the Child Support Agency receives a threat against a customer’s life, health or welfare by another party to the child support case, the Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency will:

(a)           place a safety concern flag on the threatened customer’s file; and

(b)     refer the threatened person to a Centrelink social worker.

Question 10–3               What reforms, if any, are necessary to improve the safety of victims of family violence who are child support payers?

The next proposals are presented as alternate options: Proposal 10–4 OR Proposals 10–5, 10–6 and Question 10–4

OPTION ONE: Proposal 10–4

Proposal 10–4       Section 7B(2)–(3) of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) limits child support eligibility to parents and legal guardians, except in certain circumstances. The limitation on the child support eligibility of carers who are neither parents nor legal guardians in section 7B(2)–(3) of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) should be repealed.

OPTION TWO: Proposals 10–5, 10–6 and 10–7, and Question 10–4

Proposal 10–5       The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) provides that, where a parent or legal guardian of a child does not consent to a person caring for that child, the person is ineligible for child support, unless the Registrar is satisfied of:

  • ‘extreme family breakdown’—s 7B(3)(a); or
  • ‘serious risk to the child’s physical or mental wellbeing from violence or sexual abuse’ in the parent or legal guardian’s home—s 7B(3)(b).

Section 7B(3)(b) of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) should be amended to:

(a)           expressly take into account circumstances where there has been, or there is a risk of, family violence, child abuse and neglect; and

(b)           remove the requirement for the Registrar to be satisfied of ‘a serious risk to the child’s physical or mental wellbeing’.

Proposal 10–6       The Child Support Guide should provide that:

(a)      where a person who is not a parent or legal guardian carer applies for child support; and

(b)     a parent or legal guardian advises the Child Support Agency that he or she does not consent to the care arrangement; and

(c)      it is alleged that it is unreasonable for a child to live with the parent or legal guardian concerned.

the following should occur:

(1)     a Centrelink social worker should assess whether it is unreasonable for the child to live with the parent or legal guardian who does not consent, and make a recommendation; and

(2)     a senior Child Support Agency officer should determine if it is unreasonable for the child to live with the parent or legal guardian who does not consent, giving consideration to the Centrelink social worker’s recommendation.

Proposal 10–7        The Child Support Guide should include guidelines for assessment of circumstances in which it may be unreasonable for a child to live with a parent or legal guardian.

Question 10–4               Should the Child Support Guide be amended to specify the Child Support Agency’s response to an application for child support from a carer who is not a parent or legal guardian of the child, where:

(a)           only one of the child’s parents consents to the care arrangements; or

(b)           neither of the child’s parent consents to the care arrangements, and it is unreasonable for the child to live with one parent?

In practice, how does the Child Support Agency respond to an application for child support in these circumstances?

Proposal 11–1        Exemption policy in relation to the requirement to take ‘reasonable maintenance action’ is included in the Family Assistance Guide and the Child Support Guide, and not in legislation. A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth) should be amended to provide that a person who receives more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A may be exempted from the requirement to take ‘reasonable maintenance action’ on specified grounds, including family violence.

Proposal 11–2        The Family Assistance Guide should be amended to provide additional information regarding:

(a)      the duration, and process for determining the duration, of family violence exemptions from the ‘reasonable maintenance action’ requirement; and

(b)     the exemption review process.

Proposal 11–3        The Centrelink e-Reference includes information and procedure regarding partial exemptions from the ‘reasonable maintenance action’ requirement. The Family Assistance Guide should be amended to make clear the availability of these partial exemptions.

Proposal 12–1        The Family Assistance Guide should be amended to include:

(a)      the definition of family violence in Proposal 3–1; and

(b)     the nature, features and dynamics of family violence including: while anyone may be a victim of family violence, or may use family violence, it is predominantly committed by men; it can occur in all sectors of society; it can involve exploitation of power imbalances; its incidence is underreported; and it has a detrimental impact on children.

In addition, the Family Assistance Guide should refer to the particular impact of family violence on: Indigenous peoples; those from a culturally and linguistically diverse background; those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities; older persons; and people with disability.

Proposal 12–2        The Family Assistance Guide should be amended expressly to include ‘family violence’ as a reason for an indefinite exemption from the requirement to provide a partner’s tax file number.

Proposal 12–3        In relation to Child Care Benefit for care provided by an approved child care service, the Family Assistance Guide should list family violence as an example of ‘exceptional circumstances’ for the purposes of:

(a)      exceptions from the work/training/study test; and

(b)     circumstances where more than 50 hours of weekly Child Care Benefit is available.

Proposal 12–4        A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth) provides that increases in weekly Child Care Benefit hours and higher rates of Child Care Benefit are payable when a child is at risk of ‘serious abuse or neglect’. A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth) should be amended to omit the word ‘serious’, so that such increases to Child Care Benefit are payable when a child is at risk of abuse or neglect.

Proposal 12–5        The Family Assistance Guide should be amended to provide definitions of abuse and neglect.