Two months ago, I wrote about the 5 major lessons learned when it came to dealing with Child Support (CSA) Change of Assessment (CoA) process. As previously mentioned, it was this process that eventually led me to have a wealth of knowledge about all things Divorce and the birth of my business The Financial Divorce Chick.
Finally, all that accumulated knowledge was put to use in my most recent experience with a CoA process.
And boy, what a difference experience, when applied correctly, can make.
This time, I felt calm, composed and most importantly in control, no longer was I on the back seat feeling blindsided by this process. I knew I had a good cross-application, backed up by fact, referenced to the relevant sections of the Act. Don’t get me wrong, my emotions did kick in a little, but this time I was able to keep them at bay and not colour my response and cross-application with them.
After submitting my response, I did not hear from CSA for weeks, so eventually I called to follow up and discovered they had sent a further response from the Ex three weeks previous. I don’t know where these documents eventually ended up, but 6 weeks later, I’ve still never received them.
So here I was having to respond to the Ex’s cross-application to my cross-application without any documents to go by. I requested to respond once the documents were received, but as they have a certain number of days to make a decision I was fresh out of luck.
I’d be lying if I told you my heart wasn’t pounding during this phone call with the Senior Case Officer (SCO – who was really lovely by the way). Apparently, the Ex was still insistent that I should be assessed as earning in excess of $120k because “that is what an average Financial Consultant earns”. At least this time he had a vague report from a recruitment company to back up his claim. Ummm was he forgetting that I have had our children full-time since they were babies and building my business part-time to work around the needs of our kids? I was more than happy to disclose my business earnings that clearly showed my revenue could not support such ridiculous claims.
I won’t bore you with all the details but the one funny part of this conversation I would like to share with you all was when the SCO told me the Ex’s response to where the $400k he made on the sale of his house went. Apparently it went to renovating his new 6 bedroom house to give the kids their own rooms! I had to hold back the laughter as I appreciated the irony of this statement.
Anyway, about a week later I received a call from the SCO whilst out having a business lunch. Normally I would not take a call during a luncheon, but I’d been hanging out for this call, so I politely excused myself to take the call. I’m ever so glad I did, for this call just made my day. In short, the outcome of the decision was this:
• The Ex’s application regarding my income was denied (good to see common sense still exists)
• My application regarding his income was approved
• CSA have now set the Ex’s income approx. $50k higher than his 2017 taxable income for the next two years
• My Child Support has been increased as a result
If I take you back to 2012 when I received my very first CoA decision, this is almost an exact replica of that outcome. Instead of being happy with the current assessment, the Ex sought out a major reduction in his payments and ended up having his income set at a rate approx. $50k higher. Obviously, some people just don’t know how to learn from their past experience.
I have no doubt an objection to this decision will be made and if unsatisfied with the decision it will be taken down the Appeals Tribunal route – yet again. But this time I’m no longer that scared newly Single Mum worried he will take my kids away from me. I do this sh*t for a living now and know that I have the strength to take on anything he throws at me.
Recently I was approached by two clients to assist them in writing CoA applications and it made me smile. Because of this experience, I now have additional resources to draw upon in order to assist these clients.
In closing, I’d like to say that these days, I see all experiences, good or bad, as just that, an experience. I give gratitude for them all and know that it’s these experiences that shapes our lives.
If you or someone you know is going through a similar experience and needs some guidance, please feel free to have them contact me for a complimentary Insight & Empowerment call.
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!