Letters to the Editor The Australian
For too long people suffering as a result of family separation have been
kept away from the public gaze. Your newspaper deserves praise for bringing
the heartache and tragedy of those who unfortunately find themselves as
clients of the Family Court and Child Support Agency to the fore. (‘Problem’
parents doing time – Focus, 8-9/4/00)
It was refreshing to read member of parliament, Roger Price’s honest
comments relating to the true purpose for the existence of the Child Support
Agency. He is right – it has nothing to do with “the best interests of the
children” – it is far more to do with balancing the government coffers and
recouping some of the money spent maintaining the children of divorce and
It is about time this government realised, just as it should do with the
“stolen generation” that it has to accept responsibility for current and/or
past policies and practices that have been allowed to flourish virtually
unchecked in the hands of our bureaucracy.
Policies across many areas of government have supported the concept of
separation and divorce. In doing so they have encouraged parents to leave at
the first sign of trouble with their relationship. Instead of trying to
resolve the problems, they collect a sole parent’s pension, remove their
children from the safety of an intact family and accept the government as
defacto parent and defacto partner for the payment support it provides.
Many Australian families struggle to survive financially, so there is little
reason for the government to expect that one low income can be divided to
support two separate households, that of the mother and the father and the
children, of course.
Unfortunately for the taxpayer, when government policies take us in a
certain direction that proves disastrous, someone has to pick up the tab and
accept responsibly for the actions of governments’ that we have voted into
power and allowed to remain in power.
Men’s Rights Agency
The above letter has drawn a threat from an anonymous person who identifies himself as only “TC” from Sydney.
At 1.37pm 11/4/00
A well spoken man telephoned, spoke to my husband and asked for “Sue Price”. When he was told I was on the other line he said he would “hold on”.
After TC had delivered his threat he ‘hung-up’.
TC was well spoken (possible English accent), very deliberate, cold and calculating would appear to be the best suited phrase.
An insight into the suffering caused by the Family Court and Child Support Agency: Other Letters Published in the Australian on 11/4/00
Thank you for publishing the story on the problems faced by many Australians in the Family Court and the Child Support Agency (‘Problem’ Parents doing Time, Focus 8-9/4).
Sadly, many people cannot come to terms with the damage caused by separation: then to be faced with the narrow-minded Family Law Courts and the Child Support Agency is too much.
Having been placed in a similar situation to that reported by Mr Stapleton has made me realise that I am not alone. I lost my home, my family, contact with my children and more recently my 20 year old job. I feel that the persecution and sheer bloody-mindedness of the CSA drives many good parents to despair. The persecution is even extended to second families, where any children born from this relationship are treated with disdain and blatant discrimination by the CSA.
Australians are reluctant to talk publicly about issues which may not be “politically correct”, and which may adversely portray the female sex, yet male bashing is okay. We do not want to accept that the rate of male suicide in Australia is one of the highest in the world, in fact we won’t talk about the subject for fear of influencing these weak minded people. So we just sit back and allow the federal Government to introduce “mandatory sentencing” for recalcitrant males, allow the CSA to broaden its sphere of operations into the international arena and perhaps, just perhaps, we (dads) will be able to see our children at the times granted by the courts.
Name and address supplied
Thank you for drawing attention to the excesses, irrationality and peculiar mismanagement of the Child Support Agency.
For 12 months I struggled to meet my payments. I was given to understand by my legal adviser that I had to maintain mortgage repayments, private medical health cover, rates on investment land, ambulance … all commitments in place at the time of separation.
For the sake of my children I did that. At the same time I had to find a decent and affordable unit and try to set up a new network of friends and support. I was recovering from a stress collapse caused by trying to cope with a full-time job and five part-time jobs in order to meet the constant demands for more money.
With outgoings far exceeding my income I applied for a review of my support commitment since I could obviously no longer maintain the sort of work regimen that had led to my stress collapse.
The review officer (on the ground of a $60 difference between my gross salary and my financial commitments) concluded that I could afford to maintain the payments.
The following month my health fund increased its fees which halved that difference. My only recourse was to appeal the decision through the Family Law Court. Since I had already let my solicitor go, that was out of the question. So I went broke, then into child support arrears which I still had a full-time job from which support was garnisheed monthly.
Except for the kindness and support of my siblings, who kept lending me money, I could well have been one of CSA’s delinquent payers, and a jail candidate. How dare the government consider legislation allowing the jailing of non-custodial parents at the subjective behest of such an irrational autonomous mediocrity as the CSA.
The quicker the Family Law Court is dispensed with and child support matters dealt with by the normal legal system, the better for all involved.
Name and address supplied
An Appeal on behalf of the Family Court
Letters to the Editor – The Australian 14-04-00
The article “Problem parents doing time” (Focus 8-9/4) reflects little
credit upon your newspaper and its journalistic standards. It is riddled
with inaccuracies and contains unsourced personal accounts. It gives undue prominence to the views of well-known critics of the family law system without providing any balance.
The article asserts that Family Court orders are virtually unenforceable.
Yet the vast majority of orders are complied with and are enforced when they are not complied with. The fact that difficulties are experienced with the enforcement of orders in a small minority of cases has more to do with the people involved and their attitude to the orders than it does to the issue of enforcement.
Whatever may be contained in the government’s proposed legislation, the court already has the power to imprison people for non-compliance, exercises it sparingly and has not sought any additional powers in that regard.
It is plainly wrong for the article to assert that Family Court rulings cannot be appealed from on the grounds of error of fact. If a judge makes a demonstrable error as to a material fact, the decision is liable to be set aside on appeal. A number are.
A caption to a photograph asserts that the welfare of second families is not taken into account by the Family Court. Child support legislation does limit what the court can do on appeal from assessments, but this is hardly the fault of the court.
The article speaks as though the current federal Government invented the encouragement of dispute resolution to avoid litigation. The first thing that the Family Court does when approached by separating couples is to refer them to its counselling and mediation services. Approximately 70 per cent of proceedings that commence in the court are resolved within four months and only 5 per cent ever require a judicial decision. We are considering the introduction of further measures to encourage people to resolve their differences as early as possible. The Government’s reductions in legal aid are having the reverse effect.
At least there is one point on which the author and the court agree: imprisonment is a blunt instrument that is rarely in the interests of the children involved.
Chief Justice, Family Court, Melbourne.
The Article ‘Problem’ parents doing time drew timely attention to plans to jail parents for breaching Family Court Orders. However, the article presented only one perspective.
The Family Law Amendment Bill before parliament expands grounds for jailing parents who do not comply with Family Court Orders. The article rightly states “the maintenance provisions will mainly affect men while the penalties for parenting orders will mainly affect women” and then goes on to canvas only the maintenance order issues.
While building sympathy for parents who won’t pay, the poverty of children living without child support was not presented. The article gives mainly men’s perspectives on men’s problems.
The public needs to be aware also of the implications of a mandatory sentencing regime proposed for parents who don’t comply with parenting orders. Parents jailed under the mandatory sentencing regime will not necessarily even have the benefit of legal representation.
Given the public acknowledgement by the Family Court and the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs that there are problems in legal processes responding to child protection, the consequences for affected children and women and men after separation there is no advance in justice in the jailing of parents.
Co-Executive Officer National Council of Single Mothers and their Children – Adelaide
There are now children living un families where the taxable income of the father is equivalent to average weekly earnings, or greater, but in reality are living on less than half his wage. This is because a major percentage is being removed from his gross wage for child support.
The Child Support Agency was designed to lessen the demand on the public purse, but the residential parent receives government support, (sole parent pension, family allowance, family tax assistance, guardian allowance, transport and medical concessions). this combined with a percentage of the non residential parent’s gross wage determined on the number of children born in that relationship) often encourages residential parents to remain at home on the benefits. On the information I have received to date, this is tax-free. Quite often this income adds up to more than the non-residential parent’s second family is living on.
With the percentage of this gross wage removed, the non-residential parent is left with little money to cover the basic necessities of survival for himself and second family. Government concessions are denied as the means test is based on his gross wage. Most cannot even claim medical benefits if the child falls ill during contact time.
The law needs to be changed so that all children with the same father will benefit equally. Children from a second relationship are disciminated against by the formula used by the Child Support Agency. We do not wish to deny our stepchildren financial security, we simple seek the same security for our whole family.
Partners of Paying Parents