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The Forum > Article Comments > The child support conundrum > Comments

The child support conundrum : Comments

By Tammy Wolffs, published 21/6/2005

Tammy Wolffs examines the practicalities of a tribunal for child support disputes.

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You suggest a list of reasons for persons' current reluctance to undertake formal court challenges to CSA assessments: I'm concerned that the list seems to conflate two very different orders of concern.

One set of reasons from your list relates to matters of taste, priority and practical/systemic constraints (eg: costs, time, formality, poor literacy, etc.).

The second set of reasons relates to issues of direct and urgent concern to the safety and best interests of children: i.e., the sensible and realistic fears held, most often by custodial parents, of the malicious misuse of the power to harm, and of criminal violence. To term this 'family' violence has the effect of normalizing and neutralizing what we're talking about here: it is correctly understood as violence against women and children perpetrated by men, and fogging of this unavoidable reality is unhelpful. It constrains both our acknowledgement of its ubiquity and approaches to its amelioration.

So any discussion of the value of using, for example, the Social Security Appeals Tribunal as a forum to establish a reasonable outcome that's 'in the interests of the child/ren' needs to recognize that the perceived and actual threat of violence of all kinds remains an essential issue for many concerned parents around such proceedings.
And it must acknowledge that recent changes to CSA & Welfare regulation will have the effect, intended or not, of legitimating such violent expressions of the need to dominate, control and own other persons.

Posted by Anna, Tuesday, 21 June 2005 1:46:50 PM
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There is an essential difference between the Child Support Agency and other government bodies. Most agencies are balancing the desires of the individual against those of the state. The agency has an interest in its decisions in that sense, and there needs to be a recognisably impartial tribunal that can perform merit reviews of the agency's decisions.

The CSA by constrast is theoretically impartial. On the face of it, there is no particular reason why it should show bias towards one party or the other. Its internal review process should be an effective way of obtaining a review on the merits.

In practice, people distrust the CSA, which is widely regarded by liable parents as having a bias towards custodial parents. It doesn't help that there is a fairly obvious source of potential bias, in that the whole purpose of the child support system is to make liable parents pay more in child support than they otherwise would. While some CSA officers may regard it as just a job, it's difficult to see how people could feel comfortable doing the job for very long unless their attitudes favoured the custodial parents.

Whether moving the objections process out of the CSA would really change people's perceptions is debatable, though. There are still going to be winners and losers, and it would be a rare loser indeed who read the reasons for the decision and concluded that the decision was after all fair.

Nor do I see that it is practical to remove the adversarial character. If someone objects to a CSA decision, and the CSA reverses their decision, then the other party is likely to have a view on this. Once a decision is objected to, it seems unavoidable that the other party must be invited to offer their opinion.

The Family Court needs security protection akin to that used at airports, complete with x-ray machine. I suspect any child support review body would need the same.

Posted by Sylvia Else, Tuesday, 21 June 2005 4:01:37 PM
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“For many clients of the CSA, decisions of the agency are final. Parents will often accept decisions they do not agree with, rather than risking further conflict by engaging in formal court processes.”

I would agree with that, and I would also think that CSA is not really involved in the “best interest of the child”.

CSA is basically an organisation that is involved in obtaining money from one parent, (the father in 90% of cases), and delivering that money to another parent (the mother in 90% of cases). Once that transaction has taken place, CSA plays no further part, and CSA does not become overly involved in whether or not that money is being spent on the child, or whether or not that money is being spent in the child’s "best interest”.

There are about 50,000 divorces each year, or about 140 per day. Each divorce would be different, so it becomes very difficult for any organisation to standardise the financial transactions that are to take place between each set of divorced parents. Whatever decisions CSA makes, would have to be rather blunt decisions, because CSA would not have the resources to fully investigate each case.

Combining all that, I would think it necessary for an external body to investigate complaints regards Child Support payments that are being made through CSA.

However I would think it even better if the parents developed their own agreements (and incorporate them into Parenting Plans etc), that would be better focussed upon their child, rather than leaving those decisions to an external bureaucracy.
Posted by Timkins, Tuesday, 21 June 2005 6:27:02 PM
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I agree with most of the sentiments of Sylvia and Timkins. I also agree that a parenting plan would be the way to go. Unfortunately there is alot of rancour between parents whose hurt feelings often get in the way of the best interest of the children.

There is no single ideal solution - this is where an impartial system is nescessary. I haven't had any experience with the CSA. However, like our court systems, I have no doubt that its policies should reflect our changing society, where fathers are more involved with parenting than they used to be.

There will always be complaints - one parent will often feel that they have been unfairly treated - but the reasons for this could range from their very real love for their children through to a selfish desire for control over their spouse and children. And all the emotional permutations in between.

I believe, therefore, a complete overhaul of our system starting with the needs of our children as its foundation is necessary.
Posted by Ringtail, Wednesday, 22 June 2005 8:17:19 AM
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l think that Orwell would be laughing from the grave at the Newspeak and Doublethink of that wonderfully Machiavellian concept of 'in the best interests of the child.'

The so called 'best interests of the child' are only ever invoked by disgruntled parents who are pursuing THEIR OWN SELF INTEREST, whilst hiding behind, using and manipulating the children in order to get it. Politicians and beaurucrats also use and abuse it to great effect in order to manipulate people into accepting basic injustice.

The idea of subjugating one class (adults/parents) in order to promote the interests of another class (children) is very destructive to society. l heard a rumour that children grow up to become adults.

The discordant and divided parents and political merchants USE this concept for themselves and from where l stand it is utterly TRANSPARENT.
Posted by trade215, Wednesday, 22 June 2005 12:49:46 PM
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The children don't initiate divorce or child custody disputes.


Because its usually NOT IN THEIR BEST INTERESTS. Sure, there are cases of violence that are no good for kids, yet l think that concern is grossly overstated as an emotional ploy to render the oppossing party mute.

As someone who grew up in that sort of household, who wished for divorce on a daily basis, l can now say, some 25 years later, that l am glad my family overcame and stuck together. lt was tough but l think we are better for it. l think that the consequences for children in this sort of environment have a tendency toward gross exaggeration. It is not surprising to see that those who promote this perspective have the most to gain from the way it is used in dividing the spoils of a broken family.

How is it in the best interest of children to create blatant inequity and imbalance in these matters, when those children will one day grow up to become adults who will also be subject to systemic bias and an unnecessarily adversarial framework? Cutting off their noses to spite theif faces doesn't strike me as being in their interests. How is it in the best interests of children to alienate and fragment their very heritage, their essential link to those that brought them into existence? These are essential and fundamental aspects of human identity.

Use your kids to promote your own interests at your peril. Those children will grow up to resent their parent(s) who alienate them from their own identity. And the parent who gets the blame will be doomed to a life of fragmentation in their relationship with their children. Very short sighted.

The era of using glib dismissals and pursuing blantant SELF interests, rationalised by and masquerading behind the 'best interests of the child' is over. Use this ploy at great detriment to your credibility.
Posted by trade215, Wednesday, 22 June 2005 12:52:33 PM
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