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Primarily, the child support system in Australia is classified as part of services offered by the Australian Department of Human Services (DHS). The central aim of the system is to evaluate, collect, and disburse child support payments to aid separated parents (Cook, McKenzie, & Knight, 2011). Following the interest that the system has generated across families in Australia, scholars have conducted numerous searches on information pertaining to system in an attempt to enlighten the public relation on what it entails. That said the current paper will conduct an analysis of the literature child support system in Australia, and outline conclusions derived from the evaluation.
Since the inception of the system more than 15 years ago, the Australian Child support laws have attracted criticisms from different groups in the country with the formula used to calculate child support attracting a larger share of the criticism. Young (2005) affirms that, while there have been repeated calls for the reformation of the system, the government has managed to implement the suggested recommendations on other sections of the laws while evading reforms on the basic formula used to calculate support. The main claim in this report is that the system is unknowingly forcing men into poverty through the system (Harden, 2002). This is because in most cases of separation, the mother of the child is left to care for the child hence the father has to pay support to assist the mother in caring to the child. In fact, a recent survey concluded that 86 percent of the child support recipients are females (O'donnell, Scott, & Stanley, 2008). However, a closer look into the figures constituting the outstanding amount owed by the government in regards to child support indicates that a majority of the men are not paying the required amount to support their children (Smyth, & Henman, 2010). This information, thus, denotes that if indeed men are not progressing financially, then the main impediment to their progress is not payment of child support as the assertions by the public would like to suggest.
The formula used to calculate child support is determined by the courts, which highlight a certain percentage that is calculated against the gross income of the parent in question, the number of nights the child spends at the parent’s house, and income and age referenced costs of the child (Smyth, & Henman, 2010). According to a report published by a parliamentary inquiry, nearly 36 percent of child support payment cases require a payer to contribute 500 dollars or less per annum which is equivalent to 1 dollar a day (Cook, McKenzie, & Knight, 2011). In view of the changing economic times, the assumption that child support forces men into poverty would appear to be true. However, the main cause of poverty is not child support as many would like to insinuate rather changing economic times as well as other factors that are specific to an individual such as job loss or poor pay.
Aside from the public, child support agency have also had their fair share of complains regarding payment by the parents. Studies indicate that nearly a quarter of the paying dads do not make their payments on time and when they do make the payments, they are either partial or delayed(O’Hanlon, & Stevenson, 2005). Based on data collected in 2012, only 40 percent of the recipient mothers have reported to having received full payment with the remaining 60 complaining of partial or delayed payment (Cook, & Natalier, 2013). These studies, therefore, conclude that failure of making payment results in neglects on the child and the child’s fundamental needs. According to the National Center for Social and Economic Modeling (NATSEM), one in every five separated or divorced mothers has reported to not been able to provide adequately for her children especially in regards to schools, leisure activities, and school clothing (Moloney, Smyth, & Fraser, 2010). On the other hand, one in every fifty fathers makes a similar claim. This goes to show that while fewer females are required to pay child support, they are known to make full and timely payments in support of their children.
Seemingly, allocation of child support coincides with the family assistance scheme referred to as reasonable maintenance action. The prerequisite dictates that for a parent to be considered eligible to receive more than the minimum rate of the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A, he/she should be a recipient of child support (Mckenzie, & Cook, 2007). Certainly, the scheme is a relief for low income earners as well as their children as they are able to able reasonable maintenance support where it is deemed reasonable for them to acquire such support. However, the issuance of the reasonable maintenance action is largely impacted by the failure to pay child support or partial payment of support by payers. This is because of the discrepancies evident between the amounts paid or not paid and books of accounts. That said recipient parents are at risk managementof losing both rent assistance and FTB Part A as well as the necessary child support (Mckenzie, & Cook, 2007). The situation would further be aggravated in the event of back payments where by such amounts might reflect as higher amounts of child support leading to the complete withdrawal of the FTB Part A and rent assistance. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, payer should ensure that payments are made in time and in full in order to avoid such occurrences.
The introduction of child support system was without a doubt aimed at ensuring that children of separated or divorced parents do not suffer neglect. However, since its inception, the law has countered numerous criticisms, which have led several groups to propose changes that would enhance the law. While the majority of the recommendations have been effected, the issue of the standard formula used to calculate child support remains a major point of contention (Moloney, Smyth, & Fraser, 2010). This then raises the question of whether or not the formula is indeed unfair to the party required to pay support. However, the available literature further disputes the claim with studies indicating that cost of child support is reasonably fair having been valued at 1 dollar a day in a majority of the child support payment cases. That said the general conclusion would be that families affected by the issues pertaining to the formula are majorly low income earners, therefore, deductions to their pay leave them with an even lower income (Smyth, 2009). Besides, with a contribution on 1 dollar a day, the child or children in question are bound to suffer as the amount is merger and cannot meet most of the basic needs. This been the case, then the calls for reforms are indeed credible and the government should source ways in which they would be able to alleviate the pressure of child support on low income earners. Such reforms would not only be beneficial to the parents, but also to the children who will no longer have to suffer neglect.
1. Cook, K., McKenzie, H., & Knight, T. (2011). Child support research in Australia: A critical review. Journal of Family Studies, 17(2), 110-125.
2. Cook, K., & Natalier, K. (2013). The gendered framing of Australia’s child support reforms. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 27(1), 28-50.
3. Harden, N. (2002). Child support enforcement. Australian Family Lawyer, 16(1), 13.
4. Mckenzie, H., & Cook, K. (2007). The influence of child support and welfare on single parent families. Just Policy: A Journal of Australian Social Policy, (45), 13.
5. Moloney, L., Smyth, B., & Fraser, K. (2010). Beyond the formula: Where can parents go to discuss child support together?. Journal of Family Studies, 16(1), 33-47.
6. O’Hanlon, M. L., & Stevenson, C. (2005). Innovation at the Australian Child Support Agency. Journal of Family Studies, 11(2), 197-204.
7. O'donnell, M., Scott, D., & Stanley, F. (2008). Child abuse and neglect—is it time for a public health approach?. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 32(4), 325-330.
8. Smyth, B. (2009). A 5-year retrospective of post-separation shared care research in Australia. Journal of Family Studies, 15(1), 36-59.
9. Smyth, B., & Henman, P. (2010). The distributional and financial report impacts of the new Australian Child Support Scheme: A ‘before and day-after reform’comparison of assessed liability. Journal of Family Studies, 16(1), 5-32.
10. Young, L. (2005). Reforming child support laws: Breaking the cycle. Alternative Law Journal, 30(1), 29-33