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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7327

Child Support

(Question No. 1532)

Mr Fletcher asked the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services, in writing, on 26 June 2013:

In respect of instances where parents have equal care of their children, but because there is an uneven number of days in a year, are recorded in the child support system as having an unequal share (182 versus 183 nights/49 per cent versus 51 per cent), (a) for how long has this been policy, (b) since the inception of this policy, how many associated complaints has the department received, and (c) what steps has the department taken or is it taking, to amend the system so that in such instances each parent is recorded as having equal care of their children.

Mr Brendan O'Connor: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(a) Since 1 July 2008, child support law requires a person's care of a child to be expressed as a percentage. This means, in situations where care of a child is shared equally, the number of nights that each parent provides care for the child over a 12 month period would be 183 to one and 182 to the other. Expressed as a percentage, this equates to 51 per cent and 49 per cent. However, if, in discussion with the Department of Human Services, parents advise that they each have exactly 50 per cent care, care will be recorded as 50 per cent to each parent rather than calculated on the basis of 183 / 182 nights.

(b) Information about the number of complaints specifically against care being recorded as 51 per cent to one parent and 49 per cent to the other is not available.

(c) As per (a) above, where both parents agree that they share the care of their child equally, functionality exists in the child support system to record shared care for each parent as 50 per cent. However, if the decision is that one cares for the child 183 nights of the year and the other 182 nights, the percentage of care resulting from those nights is recorded as 51 per cent and 49 per cent respectively. This is due to a legislative rule that requires percentages of care that are not whole numbers to be rounded down to the nearest percentage when the number is less than 50 per cent and rounded up when the number is more than 50 per cent.

Whether a person is recorded as providing 49 per cent, 50 per cent, or 51 per cent care for a child, their cost percentage will be 50 per cent. This means that they are taken to be meeting 50 per cent of the overall costs associated with that child when the child is in their care and the rate of child support will be the same. That is, the assessed rate of child support would be exactly the same whether the person's care is 49 per cent, 50 per cent, or 51 per cent.