CSA tells only 25% of the story!

According to the latest figures from CSA separated fathers are not so badly off as they think!

Kathleen Swinbourne, president of the Sole Parents Union has hardly been able to contain her delight that CSA have released costings under the questionable heading “Demonstrating Family Income Before and After Separation”.

Despite being referred to as a “study” this is far from that. A collection of calculations on one model does not make a study. In this instance figures have been calculated using the circumstances of non working mothers in both the first and second family.

This model is a minority. Studies show that 47% of female loneparents work and others repartner. ( Work and Welfare in Australia 2000 Landt & Pech) Further information shows that only 25% of single parent pensioners stay on the pension for more than 5 years, (DSS Annual Report 2000/01) meaning 75% either get a job or another partner willing to support them. The 25% who do stay on the pension have more than likely lived much of their adult life on some form of government support. There may even be a number of these who are rorting the system by staying on the pension whilst they work for cash or have repartnered.

Swinbourne has recruited the services of the Sydney Morning Herald’s resident cheerleader for victim women issues, Adele Horin and now we await the planned “high impact “media story. Stage One appeared yesterday  28/11/01 on Page 2 of the Sydney Morning Herald under the banner heading “Second-marriage fathers not so poor”.

Negotiations are aparently underway with both Today Tonight and Current Affair – apparently the “best offer” will determine which program wins the privilege of airing this event.

Undoubtedly, women’s groups such as WEL and Sole Parents Union will to try to persuade government that they are suffering under the changes to FTB A and the changes to CSA. Certainly there have been some beneficial reduction since the Coalition government raised the disregarded income level  10% for paying parents, but much of the increase in disposable income is as a result of the compensation package for GST payments which lowered the amount of tax payable. The benefits of that reduction should not become the subject of a money grab by WEL and SPU.

It is far more likely scenario that a woman will be earning some income. A mother with one child earning $30,000 per year will retain $35,092 tax free whilst the father retains $25,972 out of his $40,550 income. The increase in her available income comes from the $5270 paid in child support and government contributions of $5698.

Neither the article, nor the CSA tables acknowledge the likely transfer of most of the property for the benefit of the children, nor do they note the extensive costs of establishing contact ( legal costs) and setting up a new household, suitable for contact.

The costings and the article opens up the debate as to what it does
cost to raise a child. Swinbourne’s attitude is obviously attuned to how much better off the father might be after separation than the mother is. It certainly is not the case for single fathers who are supporting more than two children. Swinbourne broadcast her attitude toward child support on an SBS program when she appealed to viewers that surely it was okay for a single mother to buy a red dress like the one she was wearing out of the child support money.

The important argument is that “child support” is for the support of the children not the mother, even though it has been acknowledged that there is a 2% factor included in the child support formula that is designate as a surreptitious form of spousal maintenance.

Child support should be based on a realistic cost of raising children, with each parent sharing that cost.

Surprisingly some of the CSA review officers are basing their changes of assessment on notion of the actual cost of raising children . However they are using the Lee figures for their calculations which give rise to budgets of $13,000 for a 13 year old boy. Interestingly the CSA are apportioning just half of this cost to the paying parent. It would suggest we need to now push for realistic costs of raising children instead of the totally unsuitable Lee and Lovering figures. Even the AIFS (Australian Institute of Family Studies) has said these figure are entirely challengeable in court.

Three years ago the Government was handed a new set of figures, commissioned by them as a result of the recommendations made by the Joint Senate Select Committee 1994 into the child support scheme. These BSU figures (Budget Standards Unit) make recommendations as to the cost of raising children in Australia. However, the Government has failed to action these figures, presumably because to do so would mean an increase to the amount paid to low income families for the support their children. On the other hand BSU costs are considerably less that the figures resulting from the CSA formula.

Your responses to this article should be sent urgently to the Sydney Morning Herald email: letters@smh.com.au   Fax: 02 9282 3492



Sydney Morning Herald Wed. Nov 28 01

Second-marriage fathers not so poor

By Adele Horin

The perception of divorced men being impoverished by child-support payments is challenged by a study that shows many are as well off in their second families as they were with their first.

Some divorced fathers have complained they are unable to start new families or cannot adequately support them because of the burden of child-support payments.

But official figures in a Child Support Agency study show little change in the disposable income for men in lower income groups. It is better-off men in second families who suffer the biggest income fall.

Men on a taxable income of $35,000 can enjoy about the same standard of living in a second family despite having to pay child support to the first family. This is because they pay $2545 a year in child support for one child but receive more than $7000 in government benefits, such as family tax payments, for the second family. Their disposable income of $32,000 is about $1800 less than they had in the first family.

Kathleen Swinbourne, of the Sole Parents’ Union, said: “The claims of the disgruntled dads have been accepted at face value and the Government has moved to assist them at the expense of the custodial parent.” However, Barry Williams, of the Lone Fathers’ Association, said tables produced by the Child Support Agency were not believable, and he expected the Federal Government to further amend child-support legislation to help non-custodial parents.

In July last year, new rules came into effect which transferred a portion of the family tax benefit from sole parents, mostly mothers, to non-resident fathers if they had care of their child for 37 nights or more a year.

The Child Support Agency’s tables, left, assume the man is the sole income earner in his first and second families. He has one child by the first wife and one by the second; his ex-wife relies on the sole-parent benefit.

At a pre-tax income of $50,000, the man in his first family had a disposable income of $40,819 after tax and government benefits. In his second family, the man’s disposable income falls by almost $5,000 to about $36,000 after he pays $100 a week in child support.

“At this higher income, it’s a more substantial gap between first and second families but it still leaves the man with $36,000 on which to support a new wife and child,” Ms Swinbourne said. “The ex-wife and child live on just over $20,000, half the household income they previously enjoyed.”

At a pre-tax income of $75,000, the man who starts a second family suffers a drop in disposable income of about $10,000. While his second family lives on $44,500, the sole parent and child live on $23,800.

Ms Swinbourne said men with new partners had to expect to be worse off when they had another child, given that they still had their first child to support.

The assistant general manager of the Child Support Agency, Sheila Bird, said: “Child support is a very emotional issue and there are lots of myths and fictions about.”

The agency wanted to inject factual information into the debate.

“The basic concept of Australia’s child-support system is that parents have a responsibility to support their children even after separation, and the good news is that Australian parents in the main accept that responsibility.”


The following story is used in support of the Adele Horin article.

Especially note the second paragraph wherein it says:

“Mr Thompson pays $185 child support a month to his first wife and two children”.

Most of you would agree – not a great amount – just $43 per week for two children.


It is not until the next to LAST paragraph that the Sydney Morning Herald allows the truth to be told.

It says:

“Mr Thomson no longer has to pay child support for his first child, who has just turned 19. Up until that point, instead of paying $185 a month, Mr Thompson had to pay $400 a month.”


As you can see the newspaper has manipulated the story to tell an untruth in the opening paras so that people will believe the father is not paying much at all whereas this is a blatant lie. The truth is the father paid $400 a month for his two children, but this is not revealed until almost the end when the reader has already absorbed the lesser figure for the majority of the article.


Sydney Morning Herald,

Wed Nov 28, 01

(Photo not included here)
Caption: Andy Thomas with Josh, Jessica and baby Sarah, his children from his second marriage.

Photo: Edwina Pickles

Two families, one divorced dad and not much cash to go around

By Lee Glendinning

Andy Thompson says the idea that divorced men who remarry earn enough to support their second family is completely misleading.

Mr Thompson pays $185 child support a month to his first wife and two children and says he struggles to raise the three children, all under 10 years old, from his second marriage.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in paying child support – I have no problem with this and believe I should,” he says. “But I also believe in equal parenting and that really doesn’t seem to be happening in most cases.”

Mr Thompson is a member of the volunteer support group Dads Against Discrimination, and says he takes up to five calls a day from non-custodial fathers in a similar position to his.

He has not seen the children from his first marriage, aged 19 and 12, for six years.

As a self-employed distributor living at Douglas Park, near Picton, he earns $32,000 a year and has to support his wife and three children, Josh, Jessica and Sarah.

Despite having to pay court costs of $60,000 following his divorce and buying a new property, Mr Thompson says he has always managed to pay adequate child support.

“I’ve always been on time in my child support payments, but recently, as the kids have been getting older and there are more things to pay for, it has become a lot more difficult,” he said.”So I’ve been late a month or so, but they don’t mind so much because they know I’m reliable.”

This situation is common among many divorced parents, Mr Thompson claims, saying he finds it hard to believe any finding to the contrary.

He does not know of anyone who is as financially well-off in their second family as they were in their first.

Recently, however, it has become a little easier for Mr Thompson and his second wife, Louise.

Mr Thomson no longer has to pay child support for his first child, who has just turned 19. Up until that point, instead of paying $185 a month, Mr Thompson had to pay $400 a month.

“I’ve worked all my life. I pay my taxes and now I just want to look after my kids,” he says. “But the unfortunate thing is that, in most of these situations, it is the kids who miss out.”