My Child Support - making sense of Australia's child support system
After years working with the Australian Child Support Agency, Chris Wellman has set up My Child Support to help separated mums and dads gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Half of all enquiries he's received since creating the support service have been from mining families. Here, Chris explains how the service works, and why he thinks it appeals to miners and their partners...
Q: What exactly does My Child Support do?
A: Our focus at My Child Support is to ensure separated parents are aware of their child support rights
Upon the findings of an initial phone review, we get the client to sign a CSA Representative Authority Form, which allows us to act on their behalf. This allows us to extract their case files, and we work together with the client to achieve the best possible outcome.
Q: What’s your background and why did you decide to create the service?
A: The Australian Child Support Agency (CSA) is a complex organization which is misunderstood by many separated parents who are either paying or receiving child support payments. I know this all too well from empathising with frustrated and confused clients of the CSA as I worked there for many years.
My time with the CSA helped me to better understand clients’ rights and obligations when it comes to paying child support.
I then proceeded to form My Child Support Pty Ltd as I felt there should be a service which offers separated parents the guidance to recognize their choices through what is a challenging and traumatic time in their lives.
Q: Why did you contact Mining Family Matters about the service?
A: It would be fair to say that every second enquiry we receive is from someone employed in the mining industry. A large percentage are FIFO (fly-in, fly-out ). We also get many enquiries from the partners of FIFO workers who are receiving/paying child support.
We find the service appeals to mining workers because of their work schedules, as they are away from their families for extended periods of time.
My vision is to help separated parents gain clarity on their child support rights, either fiscally and/or mentally, thereby increasing efficiency/productivity in the workplace. I believe my service would be of great benefit to all separated parents as it aims to improve the welfare of mining workers and their partners who are paying or receiving child support.
Q: What are the biggest issues for people who contact you?
A: Child support legislation is complex - it takes considerable time even for CSA staff members to equip themselves with a thorough knowledge of the system.
So it's no surprise that the biggest issues are generally a lack of understanding of the child support system and their rights. Most of the issues are debt issues and disputes with the CSA.
Q: Do people pay a fee for your service and can you tell us how it works?
A: We charge a fee for our service which covers one year of dealing with the CSA.
Q: For people encountering the world of child support for the first time, what are your top bits of advice?
A: When registering a child support case, there are two options for payment: one being private collection where the payments are facilitated between the parents; and the other being CSA collection where payments are made to CSA (who will then disburse the funds to the receiving parent). Ask the CSA what type of incomes are being used in the Child Support Assessment. Also make sure you confirm CSA has the correct care levels.