Victoria Legal Aid calls for changes to simplify child support

Victoria Legal Aid calls for changes to simplify child support

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Victoria Legal Aid is calling for changes that would simplify the Child Support Program and ease the pressure on parents who are paying and receiving child support.

‘Many of the parents we advise find the system complex and hard to understand, particularly if they have difficulties with language, a disability or limited education,’ said Victoria Legal Aid Child Support Program Manager Jayne Ford.

‘We believe that changes to the way arrangements are processed and enforced can go a long way toward easing that burden on both parents and children.’

Ms Ford and Victoria Legal Aid Director Family, Youth and Children’s Law Nicole Rich will present a submission to the Melbourne hearing of the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program on Thursday 21 August 2014.

The Inquiry is examining problems experienced by parents involved in the Child Support Program to identify and make recommendations to address any systemic issues.

‘A common problem for our clients is securing fair payments from a parent who is self-employed and able to minimise their taxable income,’ said Ms Ford.

‘One of our clients was living in a friend’s garage with her daughter until we were able to secure backdated and monthly child support payments from her former husband. Despite declaring his business was not earning him an income, our inquiries found that he was sharing household expenses of almost $2000 a week.’

Our recommendations include:

  • greater scrutiny by the Department of Human Services (Child Support) in cases where the paying parent is self-employed to ensure he/she is not underpaying support in situations where income has been legitimately minimised for tax purposes
  • ruling out private payment arrangements in cases where family violence has occurred or is a risk, to reduce the potential risk for victims  
  • reducing the need for costly court proceedings by enabling the Department to extend the maximum period before it can pursue a child support debt for parents in private payment arrangements from nine months to seven years
  • simplifying the process for families who, because of special needs, have non-standard arrangements in place and whose circumstances are unlikely to change. This includes increasing the period between assessments (now typically 15 months).

Ms Ford said that relying on courts to resolve child support issues can put more financial pressure on parents, which can ultimately affect their ability to provide for their families.

Victoria Legal Aid has significant experience in helping parents navigate the child support system, and provided more than 4600 services to clients with child support concerns in 2013–14.

Child Support Program Manager Jayne Ford
Child Support Program Manager Jayne Ford

Help for clients

We have information about child support and how to get help.

We also provide a specialist child support outreach service in Melbourne and regional Victoria. See how we helped: 

*not their real names

Call us on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8.45 am to 5.15 pm, for free information about the law and our services. 

Read our submission

Read our submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program

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