Oct 292007

When my first marriage ended nine years ago, it got ugly almost from day one.

Not immediately, mind you, but from the time she sicced the Child Support Agency onto me on the supposedly ‘good advice’ of a friend, things went downhill like an out-of-control billycart. It’s somewhat refreshing to read that things are changing, albeit too late for your’s truly, but changing for the better it seems. Still, there’s no pleasing everyone.
On balance though, I’m pleased to see that non-custodial parents, which are male in a majority of cases, will not have their child support payments assessed as a percentage of gross income any longer. I never understood assessment of gross income anyway. There’s tax, then superannuation which come out of PAYG incomes before we see the money anyway, divorced or not divorced, so why assess divorced non-custodial persons on gross? The arbitrary nature of the CSA legislation was also a right royal pain in the arse, taking no account of those trials and tribulations which beset all of us at some time or other, divorced or not. Like redundancy. Unless you’ve been employed for more than five years in the one job, redundancy isn’t worth more than a sniff anyway. So you do the right thing and advise the CSA that you’ve gone from $XXXXX.xx/annum to sweet bugger all and they’ll tell you your payment reduces to $21.70/month. Fine, so then you get re-employed and your payments are recalculated, but wait……CSA fucks up the recalculation causing you to pay $3,000 too much for the year. No refund though. You’ll need to apply through the family court, with a barrister representing you. Oh! You choose not to contest? Well, that’s your perogative, sir! Oh, by the way, we’ve re-assessed you again, and because you’re currently earning $XXXXX.xx more than last year, we’ve upped your payments. Assess you on last years taxable income like we did in previous years? Ooooh, no, sir! We do that when we feel like doing it, but when we think you might just be getting ahead, we assess you on what we believe your annual income will be based on what you’re being paid on any one day in the year. Unfair?!! Oh no, sir! It’s in the legislation.
And so it went, over eight loooong and frustrating years. Payment recalculations at random, arbitrary decision-making, sexually biased decision-making, excuses for fuck-ups laid on legislative mumbo-jumbo and all focussed on my income, never on the income and benefits coming into the ex’s household. Even when she re-married. Little wonder I have as much regard for the Child Support Agency as I enjoy swallowing live rats.
Marriage breakups are a fact of life. Moreover, breakups are a result of life. This so-called modern life with its attendant stresses and pressures, almost all financially driven. So we retreat into autonomous life mode only to discover that once married – especially if children are involved – always married, even when divorced. This society we create then wages a fiscal war against us until we either collapse under it’s assault, or suffer in silence until the term of monetary crucifixion ends. Some of us don’t make it to the other side. Tales of non-custodial parents who are driven to suicide by the attitudes of the CSA abound.
A fairer method of determining not what a non-custodial parent should pay according to an arbitrary percentage-based formula, but on the overall care and education requirements of individual children in individual households, where all sources of income are assessed, has to be a better way to go. It’s not about who pays what to whom, but how the children are catered for, educated and kept healthy. While my current wife & I often had a drover’s breakfast, my ex-wife was buying new lounge-suites and enjoying Foxtel. The children never wanted for anything, but life for us was never fair and even. I’m pleased to see things changing. If these changes make life more bareable for non-custodial parents, then for mine, they have to be good changes.