A few years ago, at probably the lowest point of my Divorce, I was subjected to multiple Changes of Assessments (CoA), Objections to those CoA decisions and subsequently Appeals Tribunal hearings when the Objection decisions didn’t go my Ex’s way.
What I didn’t know at the time, is that this process would eventually lead me to what I do now as The Financial Divorce Chick. After all, when asked at age 10 what I wanted to be when I grow up, my answer certainly didn’t involve the world of Divorce. Actually, I think my response was that I wanted to get married and become a housewife – Good heavens, what was I thinking!!!
Anyway, back to the point of this article and that is, back when I received my first Change of Assessment notification I felt completely blindsided. Firstly, I didn’t even know such a thing existed and worse, I didn’t feel I was getting enough child support to begin with and here was my Ex attempting to reduce it even further. As fulltime carer of my children I (mistakenly) thought there was no way I could end up with even less child support. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.
I won’t go into the specifics (you’ll get to read that later in a new blog I’m working on), but what I wanted to share with everyone is the lessons I learned from that part of my journey.
- You can’t make your argument one based on emotion: Feeling raw and emotional from the legal battle I was still embroiled in, there was no way my emotions weren’t going to be front and centre in any case I was about to make. Child Support works on a formula that is dictated by the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989, in particular Section 117. Unless your emotions are in line with the sections of this Act, your argument won’t make any difference.
- Your definition of logic is probably not the same as CSA: Since separation, I’ve had the children fulltime, whilst the Ex lives on the other side of the country. We also had very expensive Court Orders in place which I believed already addressed the issues my Ex was now raising. So naturally I figured there is no way I could end up with a reduction for stuff we’d already sorted. Boy how wrong was I (you’d think spending $10k on Consent Orders would give you some level of protection). The average person’s definition of logic seems to have little relevance when it comes to how the Act is written and interpreted. Just because it makes sense to you, doesn’t mean you’ll win your argument.
- Accusations without basis of proof aren’t likely to win you any favours: This one applies particularly to Reason 8 relating to a parents’ earning capacity and financial resources. If you’re going to claim that your Ex should be assessed on their earning capacity, it’s not enough to just throw a figure out there claiming this is the industry standard. You need to back it up with factual evidence and relate it back to what the legislation says regarding how to assess and substantiate capacity to pay eg. A credible industry report and that person’s ability to obtain such employment (ie qualifications, experience, unemployment in that field and region and non-financial obligations such as raising the kids). The Agency looks at a three-part process and a condition from each subsection must apply before any consideration for a departure from the administrative assessment can be made.
- Your claims must satisfy the applicable sections of the Act: This was probably my biggest mistake. First time around I made it all about what I thought was fair and equitable, but I didn’t know to relate my arguments back to the relevant sections of The Act. Once I learned how to do this, I found my arguments had strength and a solid base for being taken more seriously. Whatever your basis for response, make sure you’ve researched which section of the Act can substantiate your claim.
- Don’t think you’re so special you can have the rules bent just for you: Most recently I was amused how my Ex thought he was so special that his nights of care should be assessed on ‘an average number of nights over the past 6 years’ instead of number of nights in a calendar year. Child Support have their formula’s and unless you’re the King of England it’s unlikely they will change the legislation just for you.
You may have noticed a bit of a theme in this blog and that is, you need to be able to relate your argument back to the relevant sections of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989, in particular Section 117. This Act is lengthy and confusing to the average person, and believe me, it’s probably more fun to watch paint dry (or the Ashes), take your pick. I sincerely hope you never find yourself on the receiving end of a Change of Assessment. But if you do and you’re feeling lost and confused, please feel free to contact our office and we will be happy to help.
I hope you found this article useful, I’m Leisa Quagliata and have a fabulous day!