Child maintenance – getting to grips with it

Child maintenance – getting to grips with it


CHILD maintenance – a term that once struck the fear of a very large and unforgiving god into me – is something I’ve had to get an intimate grip on. And squeeze. Hard.When you are caring for your children 100 per cent care of the time plus paying 100 per cent of your living costs, including the hefty family mortgage, it’s time to learn about the Child Support Agency.This aptly named government organisation will find your former partner and make him or her help with the financial reality of raising your joint children. But it can be a long process, so get started early.

The CSA uses a complex formula, based in part on your children’s ages, to determine how much the ‘absent’ parent should pay the ‘caring’ parent, until they are also able to independently care for the children overnight, thereby reducing their payments.

Backed by government legislation, the CSA can ‘garnish’ a person’s wage and deposit these payments into the receiving parent’s bank account, especially when they are in arrears despite being gainfully employed.

But so long as the paying parent is meeting their financial obligations according to the CSA, they do not legally have to contribute any extra money for private schooling expenses or extra-curricular activities like netball, dance or even dental fees.

It seems cruel to stop your children from taking part in what have been normal activities over many years, just because you can’t really afford it due to a relationship breakdown, none of which is their fault. So, it’s baked beans for dinner, again.

You can apply to the CSA to have your assessment changed due to one of 10 reasons, high education or medical costs included, but be prepared to wait several months for this process to finalise, and not necessarily in your favour.

So don’t do like I did and spend 12 months hoping it wouldn’t come to that, because your kids won’t understand when you can’t afford new clothes, shoes, take-away, treats, outings, holidays and birthday presents for their friends.
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