Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Can Child Support Compliance Be Improved by the Introduction of a 'Fairer' Child Support Formula and More Rigorous Enforcement? the Recent Australian Experience

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Can Child Support Compliance Be Improved by the Introduction of a 'Fairer' Child Support Formula and More Rigorous Enforcement? the Recent Australian Experience

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Child support compliance continues to be a thorny policy issue. In Australia, major changes to the Child Support Scheme were introduced between 2006 and 2008, featuring a markedly different and purportedly fairer' system for the calculation of child support. Extra resources were also provided to the Child Support Agency (CSA) to ensure that child support is paid in full and on time. Did these initiatives lead to greater compliance by payers with their child support obligations? This article explores this question by examining child support compliance among several national random samples of CSA clients just prior to, 1 year after, and 3 years after, the introduction of a new child support formula on 1 July 2008. The new formula and strengthened enforcement regime appear to have had very little impact on compliance behaviour in Australia.

Keywords: child support, compliance, divorce, enforcement, policy evaluation

**********

Child support compliance continues to be a thorny policy issue, particularly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis when governments are under pressure to reduce welfare expenditure. On the one hand, it is important that, to the extent possible, 'children should enjoy the benefit of a similar proportion of parental income to that which they would have enjoyed if their parents lived together' (i.e., the 'continuity of expenditure' principle) (Child Support Consultative Group, 1988, p. 67). On the other hand, if governments pursue compliance at all costs on behalf of children and the state, money can become a wedge between parents and act to undermine cooperative parenting post-separation.

Child support represents a quagmire of competing interests and views (Smyth & Weston, 2005). Separated mothers' and fathers' views about their child support arrangements are likely to be grounded in several common realities: (a) the money that supported one family is generally insufficient to meet the costs of two newly formed households, at least one of which usually includes children for much of the time; (b) many separated parents in the child support system are comparatively not well off (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014, p. 6); (c) the costs of supporting children and those of the parent with whom children live for the majority of time cannot easily be distinguished; and (d) it is generally not possible for the parent living elsewhere (typically the father) to monitor and control how child support is used (Weiss & Willis, 1985, p. 270). Differentiating 'capacity to pay' from 'willingness to pay' is not always straightforward, prompting some scholars (e.g., Braver & O'Connell, 1998; Sorenson & Zibman, 2001) to ask: Are some so-called 'deadbeat dads' really just 'dead broke dads'?

AUSTRALIA'S CHILD SUPPORT SCHEME

The Australian Child Support Scheme aims to ensure that children continue to be supported financially by both parents, should their parents separate or never live together. It currently affects around 1.4 million separated parents and 1.2 million children across Australia. The Scheme involves (a) administrative formulaic assessment, and (b) the collection (and enforcement) of child support by the Department of Human Services--Child Support Program (formerly the Child Support Agency, CSA) or by private transfer. (2) In the vast majority of cases, child support is determined by administrative assessment. (3) Collection and transfer, on the other hand, involves roughly a 50/50 split between cases in which the government collects and transfers child support ('CSA Collect'--that is, state-enforced transfers), and cases in which parents make their own arrangements for the transfer of child support ('Private Collect'--that is, self-enforced transfers) (46 vs. 54%) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014). (4) In the latter cases, the CSA issues periodic assessment notices but does not keep records of what payments have been made--that is, it assumes full compliance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.