The objection provisions allow parents and non-parent carers to ask the Registrar to reconsider particular decisions made under both the CSA Act and CSRC Act. This means that parents and non-parent carers have the opportunity for internal administrative review of some decisions. The review is conducted by a DHS officer not involved in making the original decision.
The Child Support Registrar, or a DHS officer with appropriate delegation (6.1.2), makes decisions by determining facts and then applying the law to those facts. The Registrar will make reasonable investigations before making any decision and give each parent the opportunity to comment on information that may be taken into account in a way that adversely affects them. New information about the circumstances of the parents or the child may become available after the Registrar has made a decision.
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Correction of error or mistake
There are limited circumstances where an assessment can be amended without going through the objection process. Where there has been an obvious factual error (such as a date of birth or arithmetic error) that is not disputed by either parent or the Registrar, it may be appropriate for the Registrar to amend the assessment (CSA Act section 75), or the Register (CSRC Act section 42), without requiring the parents to go through a formal objection process. Both parents should be contacted before such an amendment is made.
Occasionally, a more complex error may occur that the parents are not fully aware of, such as failure to properly apply the rules of procedural fairness in a change of assessment decision. The Registrar will also consider if these errors can be corrected without using the objection process. If the assessment is amended to correct an error, in most cases the affected parent will have the right to object to the outcome of the Registrar's decision to correct the error, as described below.
Unless it is to correct an error or mistake, generally, the Registrar will not change a decision once it has been made. A parent may lodge an objection if they want the Registrar to reconsider a decision and change the assessment. Circumstances where it would be appropriate to lodge an objection to the Registrar's original decision include if the facts are not clear; if there is new information that one parent has not had an opportunity to comment upon; or if there is a dispute about the facts. It is not appropriate to change a decision at the request of one parent. A parent who failed to provide information to the Registrar before the original decision was made may be able to make a new application based on the relevant information (e.g. a new change of assessment application). Otherwise, the parent may object to the original decision and the Registrar will take that new information into account when considering the objection.
If parents believe that the Registrar has made a mistake of fact and/or applied the law incorrectly they may object to that decision.
If a parent lodges an objection, the Registrar must reconsider the original decision, taking into account any relevant new information.
Example: David (payer) asks the Registrar to credit an amount paid for their child's school fees against the ongoing child support liability for that child. David provides copies of receipts. Elise (payee) confirms that David has paid the school fees. The Registrar credits the payment.
Elise contacts DHS 2 weeks later and questions whether the payment should have been credited. Elise says the Family Court ordered David to pay the school fees as part of their property settlement. DHS tells Elise that the Registrar cannot now vary the decision to take that information into account and Elise needs to object to the original decision.
Withdrawing an objection
A parent objecting to a decision may withdraw their objection at any time before the decision has been made. A withdrawal request can be made verbally or in writing. If a parent elects to withdraw their objection, the Registrar will not be required to make an objection decision, unless the other party has also objected to the same decision and requests for review to continue. If either party wishes to lodge a new objection, they may be required to seek an extension of time.