A harsh statistic, which should be sobering and alarming to both legislators and their advisors, but has been largely ignored, is that about 40% of all payer clients held captive by the Child Support Agency (CSA) are effectively unemployed.

Another statistic that appears to have also made no impact on government decision-makers is that 76% of all unemployed men receiving unemployment benefits are payer clients of the CSA. The cost of this to the taxpayer is astronomical.

One possible reason for government inaction in dealing with this problem may well be a lack of understanding of the causal relationship between the CSA and unemployment.

Let me explain it to them.

Consider a non-custodial father with a salary of $70,000 per year who has 30% contact with his 5 children. He would pay $23,500 income tax and $20,000 to the Child Support Agency, leaving him with $25,700.

If, as is common, an application for a review of his assessment during a precious period of unemployment has resulted in a departure from the CSA formula assessment, he may well find himself with substantial arrears in Child Support.

In such a case, the CSA would also take from him about 25% (or $8,245) of the balance of his income to cover the payment of arrears, leaving him with $17,455. If we deduct from that a reasonable cost of travelling to work, say $100 per week for 48 weeks, he would be left with $12,655 p.a. to support not just himself, but also his 5 children during his 30% contact time.

Meanwhile, his non-working ex-partner with 30% free time (or more likely 70% free time if the children happen to attend school) receives an unearned and tax-free income of $39,845 from CSA payments ($20,800), parenting payment ($10,920) and family allowance ($8,125).

Why would a non-custodial father choose to leave his state of unemployment? During this time, he received $17,429, consisting of $10,920 in unemployment benefits and $6,509 family allowance. He was better able to care for his children while they were with him. He also regains some control over his life.

Another advantage / disadvantage of being unemployed is that he has created a cost to the taxpayer of $40,929 each year in Centrelink payments and lost taxation revenue. It is only when the collateral damage caused by the CSA begins to be measured in dollars rather than broken lives, will there be any hope of achieving its complete abolition or reform.

Every responsible and decent non-custodial parent should do everything they can to work together for positive reform or abolition of the CSA. If positive reform of the draconian schedule of payments is not forthcoming, more and more single fathers will join the unemployment queues.

[Photo by Benjamin Disinger on Unsplash]

About the Author: Roland Foster

Roland Foster is an non-custodial father, separated since 1997, with 5 young children aged between 6 and 14 years. Roland is a passionate father and an active social reformer who believes Australia's current laws are contributing to the creation of our fatherless society.

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