Child support can be a difficult process as it is, but a new study shows the child support system – which underwent reform in 2008 – is actually so complex that the majority of parents don’t understand the rules.
Conducted by Professor Bruce Smyth from the Australian National University, the study shows that more than 80 per cent of parents who pay or receive child support didn’t know or were confused about how child support calculations are worked out – and what’s more, one in five thought they knew the rules but were misinformed. Less than one in 10 were correct in their understanding of the system.
The study focused on the number of nights children can stay with each parent, and how those numbers affect how much has to be paid – otherwise known as a parenting time threshold – as well as the Family Tax Benefit and how it can be split.
Parenting time threshold
In 2008, the child support scheme underwent reform and because of this, child support calculations are based on what children cost, not on the non-resident parent’s income. After these new reforms, one overnight stay by the child results in a 24 per cent reduction in child support; however, most parents still believe the number is bigger or smaller – or they are unaware of the number altogether.
Professor Smyth said this information was worrying because there is potential that one parent who understood the scheme could play the system against the other parent. He said these findings also mean many parents were making decisions without solid knowledge of the scheme – something that can disadvantage both the parents and the children.
How can I understand the child support scheme?
Having a solicitor who specialises in family law is the best way to ensure that you are receiving the correct amount of child support. It’s good to try and wrap your head around the scheme. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website has fact sheets available about the various parts of the scheme – otherwise, your solicitor can explain the areas that are relevant to you and your family.
Do you understand the child support scheme? Is it too complex for families?
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