1.2.1 Amendments to the CSRC Act
The child support scheme was established with the enactment of the Child Support Act 1988, subsequently renamed the CSRC Act. From 1 June 1988 the Registrar could register, collect and enforce court orders and court registered agreements for child support and spousal maintenance.
The CSRC Act and the Regulations under the Act have been amended from time to time since then. Full details of the amending acts and significant changes are listed below.
From 1 October 1989
- Child Support Act 1988 renamed the CSRC Act.
- The Registrar can collect the amounts payable under a child support assessment.
From 6 April 1992
- The Registrar can issue a notice to a third party (5.2.9) who holds money for a child support payer to pay that money to the Registrar in satisfaction of child support arrears.
- The CSRC Act was amended to facilitate the Registrar collecting child support where a payer was overseas.
- The Registrar can credit an amount as a non-agency payment where the payer made that payment to a third party in satisfaction of a debt owed by the payer and/or payee if both parents intended it to be for child support and there are special circumstances.
- A court can set aside or prevent a transaction intended to reduce or defeat a payer's ability to pay child support.
From 29 May 1995
- A payer can elect for the Registrar not to enforce a court order during a 'low-income non-enforcement period' (3.4.5).
- A payer and payee can jointly elect for the Registrar not to enforce a court order for a child who is not in the care of the payee (3.4.4).
- A payee receiving social security pensions or benefits can elect for the Registrar not to collect their child support for them, as long as the payer has a satisfactory payment record. The payee can then make private payment arrangements with the payer.
- A payee who had elected for the Registrar not to collect child support can later make an application for collection and ask the Registrar to collect up to 9 months of arrears (5.6.3).
From 22 July 1997
A payer can elect for the Registrar not to collect their child support by employer withholding (5.2.2).
From 1 July 1999
- The Registrar can suspend disbursement of child support while a court considers a payer's application for a declaration that the payee was not entitled to a child support assessment.
- The Registrar can ask the Secretary of the department to deduct a prescribed amount for child support (5.2.5) from a payer's social security pension or benefit.
- The Registrar can require parents to make private payment arrangements (5.6.2) if the payer has established a satisfactory payment record and the Registrar is satisfied that regular payments are likely to continue.
- Parents who each have child support debts can offset amounts they owe to each other (5.3.2).
- Payers can elect to pay their child support in accordance with their pay cycle (5.1.5), rather than monthly.
- Payees can elect to collect their own child support at any time (5.6.1). There is no longer a requirement for the payer to have a satisfactory payment record before a payee receiving a social security pension or benefit can elect for the Registrar to stop collection.
Changes to crediting of non-agency payments
- The Registrar no longer requires that there be special circumstances before it can credit payments made directly to the payee or a third party (5.3.1) where the payer and payee intended the payments to be for child support.
- The Registrar can credit the value of non-cash payments (5.3.1) where the payee and payer intended the payment to be for child support.
- A payer can ask the Registrar to credit certain payments (such as school fees, essential medical and dental fees and rent for the payee) in satisfaction of up to 25% of their monthly child support liability without the agreement of the payee.
- The Registrar can refuse to credit a non-agency payment (5.3.1) in the circumstances of a particular case.
From 3 May 2000
The CSRC Act was amended to allow Australia to give effect to its international obligations in relation to maintenance.
From 30 June 2001
- The Registrar can issue a departure prohibition order (5.2.11) to prevent a payer leaving the country where that payer has persistently failed to meet his or her child support obligations.
- Administrative changes to give effect to the Child Support Agency's (CSA) move to the Department of Family and Community Services. The Child Support Registrar is now the General Manager of CSA, rather than the Commissioner of Taxation.
From 1 July 2002
From 4 May 2006
Parents can appeal against the Registrar making a departure prohibition order (5.2.11) in the Federal Circuit Court.
From 1 July 2006
The rate at which the Registrar can credit a prescribed non-agency payment (5.3.1) increases from 25% of the monthly child support liability to 30%.
From 1 January 2007
- The Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) provides a process for parents who want a review of a Registrar decision made under the CSA Act or the CSRC Act.
- A payee can pursue court enforcement of a debt whilst it is registered for collection by the Registrar.
- A court hearing an enforcement application made by a payee has the same powers as the Registrar to obtain information in order to collect child support.
- A court has increased powers to make orders staying a child support assessment (4.3.6) or collection pending the determination of an objection, application for review, or appeal to a court.
- The Registrar can register for collection an amount repayable by a former payee to a former payer under a parentage overpayment order (3.1.2).
From 22 June 2007
- All stay order provisions are located within the CSRC Act regardless of whether the relevant proceeding has commenced under the CSA Act or the CSRC Act.
- Some minor changes to SSAT arrangement including provision for an applicant to withdraw their SSAT application.
- Objections and accompanying documents (4.1.6) to be sent to the other party.
- Where a court orders a payer to make a payment in private payee enforcement proceedings (5.4.7) that payment must be made to the Registrar.
- An employer's obligation to withhold money from a payer's salary and wages is extended to include payments to independent contractors.
- Some changes to the secrecy provisions (6.3.3) including the following:
- The Registrar can communicate protected information to persons as necessary to prevent a credible threat to the life, health or welfare of a person.
- The Registrar can communicate protected information to brief the Minister in respect of a range of circumstances relating to the Minister's duties.
- The Registrar can communicate protected information to a person who has the consent of the person to whom the information relates to obtain that information.
- The Registrar can communicate protected information in specific circumstances relating to missing people and locating a relative or beneficiary of a deceased person.
- A new offence (6.8.6) for unauthorised disclosure of information.
From 19 July 2007
The CSRC Act was amended to incorporate measures relating to Australia's international obligations (1.5) in relation to maintenance, these measures were previously contained in separate regulations. There were also minor amendments to the legislation as follows:
- A maintenance liability cannot be registered under the CSRC Act unless one party resides in Australia.
- One registered maintenance liability will cease to have effect if a second maintenance liability is registered in relation to the same child, payee and payer. The Registrar is able to refuse to accept an application for an Australian child support assessment that would override an overseas liability already registered.
- A payer is able to apply for registration of a maintenance liability provided that either the payer or the payee resides overseas in a reciprocating jurisdiction.
- There are some increased time allowances in relation to various processes where one party to a maintenance liability is resident in a reciprocating jurisdiction. Generally these increased time allowances apply only to the party who is resident in the reciprocating jurisdiction.
- A person who has a liability to pay child support to the Registrar because of an overseas maintenance liability is able to apply for non-enforcement of the liability during a period of low income.
From 1 January 2008
- The Registrar can issue a notice to someone who owes a child support debtor money requiring that the money be paid to the Registrar in satisfaction of child support related debts (section 72A notice (5.2.9)) for less than the total amount of outstanding child support.
- The Registrar is not required to serve a copy of the objection (4.1.6) and accompanying documents on the other parent where the objection is to the making of, or refusal to make, a departure determination under CSA Act Part 6A if the Registrar is satisfied that the rights of the other parent will not be affected by any decision made by the Registrar.
- Parents can apply for an extension of time (4.1.5) to submit an objection over the phone as well as in writing.
- Payers can object (4.1.2) to the acceptance of their application for a child support assessment.
- Range of debts collectable via tax refund intercepts is extended (5.2.8).
From 1 July 2008
- A new child support scheme comes into operation from 1 July 2008. This is the most significant change since the inception of the child support scheme.
- The changes to the scheme build on the Government's reform of the family law system which seek to encourage shared parenting, reduce conflict and make sure child support is paid in full and on time.
- In changing the scheme the Government has accepted the report of the Ministerial Taskforce on Child Support, chaired by Professor Patrick Parkinson (In the Best Interests of Children, May 2005). This review was conducted in response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs report on child custody arrangements in the event of family separation (Every Picture Tells a Story, December 2003).
- The Taskforce found that the scheme needed to be updated to reflect the substantial changes in our society since the scheme was first established in 1988. It highlighted the need for a much greater emphasis on shared parental responsibility and a growing recognition of the importance of both parents remaining actively involved in their children's lives after separation.
- The changes to the scheme are significant and therefore the child support legislation has been amended extensively to bring these changes about. A summary of some of the more significant changes to the CSRC Act that are operative from 1 July 2008 are outlined below:
- Prescribed non-agency payments (5.3.1) do not apply to parents whose child support liability reflects at least regular care of any of the children to whom the relevant administrative assessment relates.
- The provisions for objecting (4.1.2) to Registrar decisions have been updated to reflect the new formula and notional assessments.
- A party aggrieved by a decision of the SSAT under CSRC Act Part VIIA relating to a party's percentage of care for a child has appeal rights to the AAT (4.2.5).
- Lump sum payments (5.3.3) are credited against the payer's liability under CSRC Act section 69A (rather than reducing the annual rate of child support payable under the administrative assessment). As at 1 July each year, the remaining lump sum credit is then indexed in accordance with changes in the CPI.
- A payee's application to have a child support liability again collected by the Registrar (5.6.3) will be granted unless the payer can demonstrate that it should not be granted for one of the reasons specified in CSRC Act section 39(5).
- The Registrar can request the Repatriation Commission to make deductions from certain Veterans' Affairs (5.2.7) payments in order to pay child support debts.
From 10 December 2008
- The departure prohibition order (5.2.11) provisions are extended to allow the Registrar to issue a DPO to prevent a person from leaving Australia if the person owes child support in another country and the liability and any arrears have been registered with the Registrar.
- Selected SSAT decisions about child support matters may be published. All identifying information will first be removed.
From 1 March 2009
The definition of registrable maintenance liability at CSRC Act section 18 is extended to include a liability of a party to a de facto relationship to pay periodic maintenance (3.1.5) to the other party of the de facto relationship.
From 1 July 2010
- The way that care percentage decisions are reviewed has changed as a result of sharing care decisions (2.2.5) across DHS for child support and FTB purposes. A party to an assessment can object (4.1.2) to DHS for review of a care percentage decision. The objection to the Registrar to the care decision can be made either orally or in writing. A party may object to the care decision any time, however the date of effect of the objection care decision will vary depending on whether the objection was lodged within, or outside, the 28 days from the date of the original care decision (90 days for a person in a reciprocating jurisdiction).
- A party to an assessment who is dissatisfied with the department's objection care percentage decision can apply to the AAT or the SSAT for review of the decision, at any time.
- A parent can object to the Registrar's decision to refuse to accept an election for a new year to date income amount (4.1.2).
- A parent can object to the Registrar's determination of a year to date income amount (4.1.2).
From 1 October 2010
The Registrar can give written notice to the Secretary of the department to deduct an amount from a parent's parental leave pay (5.2.10) to collect the parent's child support or spousal maintenance debt. Payment of parental leave pay commences from 1 January 2011 for eligible parents.
From 27 June 2011
All references to 'month' have been clarified to 'Calendar month'.
From 1 July 2011
The services of the Child Support Agency, Medicare Australia, Centrelink and CRS Australia are delivered by the integrated Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS).
From 5 August 2011
If an employer is required to make an employer withholding (EW) (5.2.4) deduction and fails to remit the payment, the Registrar can impose penalties on the employer. Alternatively the Registrar may also take court action against employers for this breach of duty.
From 30 June 2012
Any automated decisions using a computer program are considered to have been made by the Registrar.
From 12 April 2013
The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia became known as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The following references in the CSRC Act were changed:
- Federal Magistrates Court to 'Federal Circuit Court of Australia',
- Federal Magistrates Rules to 'Federal Circuit Court Rules',
- Federal Magistrate to 'Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia'.
From 1 July 2015
- The AAT, SSAT and Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal were merged. The amalgamated tribunal was established under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 and is called the AAT (4.2.1).
- Child support decisions previously reviewed by the SSAT are now reviewed by the amalgamated tribunal in its Social Services and Child Support Division.
- The amendments preserved the right for child support care percentage decisions to undergo a 2-stage review process within the amalgamated tribunal. Previously an applicant would have appealed to the SSAT for a review of a child support care percentage decision and then potentially to the AAT. They will now instead apply for an AAT first review to the amalgamated tribunal and potentially an AAT second review to the amalgamated tribunal.
- Other child support decisions which were previously only reviewable by the SSAT and then appealable directly to a court, will now instead be subject to an AAT first review by the amalgamated tribunal and would then be appealable to the Federal Court of Australia on a question of law. Where the amalgamated tribunal decision did not involve a presidential member (i.e. a Deputy President or the President), parties may choose whether to appeal to the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court.
From 1 July 2016
The definition of 'resident of Australia' was amended by the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 and the Territories Legislation Amendment Act 2016. These amendments provide that residents of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are residents of Australia for child support purposes, and enables residents of these external territories to apply for child support (1.6.1).
From 1 May 2018
The CSRC Act was amended to allow deductions from a person's Veteran Payment where they owe a child support debt, which is consistent with other income support payments under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.
From 1 July 2018
The CSRC Act was amended to:
- align the Registrar's ability to recover a child support overpayment from a payee with the methods for recovering a child support debt from a payer,
- ensure that backdated reductions to a child support assessment collected by the Registrar are recoverable, and
- include new provisions in relation to backdating of assessments and provide a fairer basis for retrospectively creating a child support overpayment or underpayment due to some changes of circumstances.