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Listen: What you need to know about child support

Child support is a way for both parents to make sure that their kids are properly supported financially. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made around how your child support arrangement is set up, managed and collected. There are also a lot of implications to these decisions which might not become clear until you are a fair way down the child support road.

In this episode, we speak to Crystal Paduch from Child Support Consultants about many aspects of child support in Australia to give you some insight into how it all works.

We cover:

  • how child support is assessed
  • the ways to manage child support
  • private collection versus Child Support collect
  •  how Centrelink, Child Support and the ATO are connected
  • the types of income included in an assessment plus income exclusions
  • how days of care affect an assessment
  • what happens if there is an overpayment or underpayment
  • the services offered by CSC.

If you’d like to book a free chat with Crystal to discover how she can help you, you can find the link to her calendar here.

Listen here, or listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

If you know someone who will find this podcast helpful, please share.

The Separation Guide aims to make separation and divorce simpler, more manageable and less stressful. To find out more about how one of our Network Members could support your separation, take our free 3-minute Q&A.

Kate Russell
Child support is something you’’ll have to think about if you separate with kids. But where do you start? Welcome to The Separation Guide Podcast. I’m Kate Russell, and in this episode, I’ll be learning everything you need to know about child support.

Some separated parents are in a position where they earn similar incomes and are able to split care evenly. For the most part, though, if you’re a parent going through a separation, you’re likely to be entering into some kind of financial arrangement with your ex-partner so your children are properly supported.

This arrangement is called child support. But how do you set it up? Who pays support to whom, and how is it calculated? How is it managed, collected or paid? How does child support interact with other family benefits? What income is used in a child support assessment? How are Services Australia and the ATO connected? What happens if my income goes up or down? What if my ex-partner just doesn’t pay? Or what if I feel my whole existing child support arrangement is not set up correctly?

That’s where my guest comes in.

Crystal Paduch is the founder of Child Support Consultants. After 12 years working for Services Australia Child Support, she deeply understands the system as an insider, and also understands how frustrating it can sometimes be for parents to navigate that system. Crystal left Sevices Australia when she recognised that her knowledge and skills could be used in a more productive way by providing a tailored approach from the beginning, saving a lot of headache and heartache around setting up and managing Child Support payments.

I asked Crystal first to tell me a bit more about her motivations for founding Child Support Consultants.

Crystal Paduch
Child support. I think universally there are really no two words when put together that can bring up so much negative emotion in a conversation. Child support really does have such a negative vibe. Wherever you hear it mentioned, whether it’s in the media or in general conversation in the workplace, friends or family, it just always seems that no one has a good story to tell.

So I wanted to change that. I wanted to flip the script and provide a positive view, a positive outlook and positive outcome on what child support can be if you just get it right. I want to show people how they can live with child support in their lives without it consuming their life and move forward with a more positive and empowered mindset regarding child support.

Now, I have three kids of my own and understand not only from a professional point of view, but as a parent’s view, and obviously in particular a mother’s view of how important it is to ensure our kids are supported and feel a sense of security and balance. They are the priority beyond everything else. And I see mothers in particular making decisions regarding their child support in an attempt to not rock the boat or to keep the peace. These are very common phrases I hear time and time again, but there is no reason why child support should rock the boat or disturb the peace in their lives. And we’re here to show parents how that is actually possible.

I founded Child Support Consultant after working for Child Support for twelve years between 2009 and up until last year 2021. And I could see a gap that needed to be filled for parents that were just continuously falling between the cracks of all the systems. Departments and processes and wanted to provide a place they could reach out to for a more simplified, wrap-around service. To provide clear and understandable information while kind of holding their hands and walking them through the steps and options. Allowing them to take control and make informed decisions regarding the management of their child support, based on their particular family situation. I guess also while taking some stress away from them attempting to go through this sort of uncharted territory alone. Which is really quite scary for so many people who have never needed to obtain support payments before and just don’t know what direction to head in.

And often by the time people get to us, they’ve been in the system for a while and are frustrated by a sense of going around in circles or outcomes that just don’t properly reflect their situation, resulting in missing out on the proper support for their children, debts arising and incorrect child support assessments. These inaccuracies not only affect their child support assessment but also impact other payments such as their family tax benefit assessments as many don’t understand the financial implications of decisions that are being made regarding their child support and resulting in incorrect financial support for their children. Not to mention the impact all this confusion and frustration can have on the co-parenting relationships as often child support is the only barrier that is causing issues and disruptions in an otherwise quite amicable enough co-parenting situation.

Kate Russell
If someone has separated and they’ve got kids and they’re coming to child support fresh, what are the basics? What is child support? What is it for?

Crystal Paduch
So, child support is the financial support between parents for the purpose of financially maintaining and supporting their children after separation. The objective of child support is to ensure children receive the level of financial support from both their parents after separation, in line with their parents’ financial capacity. And ideally, this provides equality between both homes by way of the standard of living the children are accustomed to or would be receiving if their parents were living together and being raised in the way the parents intended if living in the same home.

Kate Russell
So who has to pay child support? How do they work that out? Who the payer is? And is there some kind of formula?

Crystal Paduch
Yes. So the role of the paying parent and the receiving parent of child support is determined by the incomes of both the parents and the care they each provide for the children. If the income or care percentage changes, the roles can reverse throughout the course of the case. So Services Australia Child Support calculates child support assessments using a formula, taking into consideration the parent’s income, the percentage of care of the child, the costs of the child and a parent’s self-support amount, plus any additional components, such as if a parent has another child support case or if they have another child from a different relationship.

Kate Russell
I see. And what happens in those cases if there’s a child from a different relationship?

Crystal Paduch
They will receive what Child Support call a relevant dependent allowance to take into consideration that parent needs to support that other child as well. Or if they have another child support case, it will be a multi-case allowance, taking to consideration that that parent needs to provide for another case as well.

Kate Russell
Wow. Okay. It can get really complicated really fast.

Crystal Paduch
Absolutely.

Kate Russell
When does child support start? When does the payment start? Is it when someone gets divorced? Or is that when they first separate?

Crystal Paduch
Arrangements for child support should be made from the date of separation even if parents are separated and still living in the same home.

Kate Russell
So you could be living under the same roof and there still could be a child support arrangement in place?

Crystal Paduch
Yes, that’s correct. If the parents are separated, and quite often this does occur in the initial stages of separation while parents are trying to work out what they’re going to do moving forward in relation to living arrangements yes, they can still register a child support case from the date they actually separated, even if living in the same home.

Kate Russell
Wow. Okay, right. So getting onto your child support arrangements as early as possible in the process is right.

Crystal Paduch
Absolutely

Kate Russell
Okay, so what is the child support assessment and who does the assessment?

Crystal Paduch
An application for a child support assessment can be made to Services Australia Child Support, which is a government department who will create the assessment and send assessment letters to both parents to advise of the amount payable on a regular basis. And either party can make that application regardless of their level of care of the child.

Kate Russell
Does it have to go through Service Australia or can it be done just informally between the parents?

Crystal Paduch
No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t need to be registered with Services Australia Child Support, there are actually three different ways. There are three options when it comes to managing child support and it’s always the receiving parents choice of how they want the payments changed. That is, the parent who is entitled to receive child support is the one who will choose the collection method and can change this from one to the other anytime if the choice they initially make is not working out for them. So the question you asked is does it have to be registered child support? No, it doesn’t. So parents can choose a self-managed, they can self-manage their child support and this is where child support is arranged between the parents without the involvement of Services Australia. So not registered. The parents are just doing their own thing.

Kate Russell
Okay, we’ll get on to maybe some pros and cons of those different approaches a bit later on. I just have a couple of questions more around the basics. So if a child lives in Australia, but one of the parents is overseas, is that parent still obliged to pay child support?

Crystal Paduch
In some cases, yes. So if a parent is residing overseas but in a reciprocating jurisdiction, then yes, child support can be registered and collected. There are some based countries that Services Australia Child Support won’t be able to continue an assessment or commence an assessment for if they’re not in a reciprocating jurisdiction. A list of those jurisdictions are available on Services Australia’s website.

Kate Russell
Okay, so while a parent really should be paying child support, it can’t be registered and collected by Services Australia in some countries?

Crystal Paduch
That’s correct. Yeah.

Kate Russell
I see. All right. And then when does child support stop? When is the parent obliged to stop paying?

Crystal Paduch
Child support stops when the child turns 18. However, a parent can make an application to continue the child support assessment beyond the child’s 18th birthday if they are still in full-time secondary education on their 18th birthday. The child support can be extended in this case up until the last day of the secondary school year in which the child turns 18. But this is not automatic. The case will end when the child turns 18 if no application is made to Services Australia prior to their child’s 18th birthday. And it can’t be made after the case has ended. A court can also make a child maintenance order for a child over 18 years if the child has a physical or mental disability as well.

Kate Russell
Okay, all right. So once again, it’s not saying that parents shouldn’t both be contributing to children who are over 18. It’s just that Services Australia cease that management of the case at that point in time?

Crystal Paduch
Correct. Yes.

Kate Russell
Okay. All right. So when people separate, they’ve got a range of options about their parenting arrangements and how they formalise them, whether it’s a parenting plan or a consent order that has been approved by the court. Do parents need a parenting plan for a child support assessment?

Crystal Paduch
No, not necessarily. Although it is good to have a parenting plan in place because this provides a common understanding and consistency and stability between the parents and the children of what the ongoing care arrangements will be, it’s not necessary for child support purposes. Child Support will usually calculate the percentage of care according to the actual care the parents have of the child. So regardless of whether there are court orders or parenting plans in place, the normal process for child support is they will implement the calculated percentage of care that the parent is actually providing for that child for the purpose of working out the child support assessment.

Kate Russell
Right. So even if you had a parenting plan set up that said it was a 70/30 split of care, but the kids are spending more like 90% with the one parent, that’s the figure that would be used in the assessment?

Crystal Paduch
The amount that’s actually happening? Yes. In limited circumstances, for example, if a parent is being prevented from having a child in their care in accordance with the care arrangement without their consent, Child Support may set the care as per the written arrangement for a period of time rather than using the actual care that is occurring. However, in most circumstances, Child Support will always use the actual care.

Kate Russell
Okay, all right, so if there are cases of perhaps parental alienation or something like that?

Crystal Paduch
Correct.

Kate Russell
Okay. So you spoke a little bit earlier about how you arrange your child support collection and the payments. So would you be able to step me through the different ways that that can be set up and maybe a little bit about the pros and cons of each type?

Crystal Paduch
Yeah, sure. So we touched on self-management so that’s where child supports arrange between the parents themselves without registering the case with Services Australia. But this can be a good option if the parents because it gives the flexibility to parents to do what they want and have full control over how it all works. It can be a good option if parents are amicable enough to approach the subject of money to support the children with each other and I’m not in any need of additional financial support and the reason I say that is because if a parent doesn’t register their child support case with Services Australia they will not be entitled to more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A. So that can have a huge financial impact on some families and it’s really important that they understand that.

Kate Russell
Okay, so definitely a negative of that is that it’s kind of excluding you from a lot of the other Centrelink benefits that you might otherwise be eligible for.

Crystal Paduch
That’s right, exactly right.

Kate Russell
Okay, so what’s another type? So services Australia can collect for you?

Crystal Paduch
Exactly. So once registered with Services Australia so if as a parent you decide to register your child support case with Services Australia there are two options for collection and that is either a private collection arrangement or child support collection. So private collection is where the case is registered so that satisfies the requirement with Centrelink to enable a parent to receive the maximum Family Tax Benefit Part A payment.
However, they’re managing it privately between themselves so child support are not involved with the collection of that payment they’ll still send out the assessment letters to the parents and advise of what should be paid. However, they’re not involved with collection so it still provides parents with a little bit more flexibility.

Kate Russell
Okay and then the other kind?

Crystal Paduch
And the other kind is Child Support collect. So Child Support collect is where it’s readily with child support and child support and managing the payments. So they will issue the notices they’ll advise when payments need to be made and how much they’ll collect it from the paying parent and they will then disperse that to the receiving parent usually on a monthly basis.

Kate Russell
All right, so that would mean that the payer is actually paying money to Services Australia, not to their other parent and the receiver is receiving the funds from Services Australia?

Crystal Paduch
That’s correct, yes.

Kate Russell
Okay, all right and what if someone doesn’t pay to Services Australia? Does the receiver still get the money?

Crystal Paduch
That’s right. And this is the main issue with private collection. So while this is good and a popular option for many parents, as it requires minimal communication with Services Australia, and as we said, allows a little bit more flexibility with how and when payments will be made, there can be issues. There can be issues when debts do arise.

This happens usually when incomes are not correctly recorded in the child support assessment. So, for example, if the paying parent hasn’t lodged their tax and child support are using a provisional income in the assessment, and then later on the paying parent does lodge their tax or new incoming information is received, the assessment will be adjusted and backdated retrospectively.

And this can cause overpayment debts or family tax benefits the receiving parents. So not only does it create a child support debt, but it also can cause overpayment debt with family tax benefit because Centrelink are using the child support assessment to calculate a parent’s family tax benefit assessment as well.

Kate Russell
Right.

Crystal Paduch
Then in addition to that, so the next layer, I guess, on top of that is that because it’s a private arrangement, child support are not involved with collection. So a receiving parent, as we discussed before, can change their payment method. They can call child support and request Child Support takeover collection, but very rarely will they collect back pay of more than three months worth of debt. So if there was a retrospective change that resulted in a backdated assessment and a debt arising from beyond three months, years even in some cases, then Child Support can’t do anything about that. They cannot collect that for that receiving parent. And the only way to recover that would be to apply to the Court.

Kate Russell
Right. Wow, I can see that this could cause so much conflict if it’s set up incorrectly.

Crystal Paduch
That’s correct, yes.

While we’re talking about different collection methods, if as a parent you are concerned for your safety or if you’ve been subjected to domestic and family violence, there are other options. And it’s really important that you do not make an application for a child support assessment until you are fully aware of what child support is, what process they follow. Once you make this application and consider if registering a child support assessment is maybe just not the best option for you at this time, you can change your mind down the track. So if you find down the track, things change and you feel comfortable and safe. You can register a child support case any time there are other payment or financial support you may be eligible for if you are impacted by domestic and family violence. And the requirement for you to register a child support assessment in order to receive your maximum family tax benefit payment is not required in these circumstances.
Kate Russell
Wow, Crystal, that’s so important to know, especially when you talked earlier about people maybe not wanting to rock the boat. There are obviously some times when it is really sensitive and inflaming conflict could actually be really quite dangerous. So that’s really great advice. Thank you very much for bringing that up.
Crystal Paduch
Absolutely.
Kate Russell
So I’d like to ask you now some of the questions that our Separation Consultants get asked and that they often say, oh, you really need to speak to Crystal, at Child Support Consultant, because she’s the expert in this field, but I thought it might be useful just to talk through some of those questions.
Crystal Paduch
Sure.
Kate Russell
So one of the questions we get is: I did my child support assessment, I filled in the calculator on Centrelink and my partner did the same and we got a different number. So why does that happen?
Crystal Paduch
It really shouldn’t be happening. If you’re using the same calculator and inputting the same information, the result should be the same. But so usually when this happens, it’s due to one parent inputting incorrect information, such as care levels, or not understanding seeing properly how the calculator works.
Kate Russell
Right. So if the calculator is not at fault, we’re not going to blame the tool?
Crystal Paduch
No, it’s usually fairly accurate. It’s not a bad calculation to do, but it is important that you put in the right information, and in particular in relation to the care levels. So care levels play such an important role in determining how much should be paid and who’s going to pay what, really, in a child support assessment.
Kate Russell
So it might be one person entering what’s on the parenting plan and someone else is entering kind of what’s really happening.
Crystal Paduch
That’s right. Or it’s a genuine miscalculation of the nights of care that they actually have over the period of the year.
Kate Russell
So Crystal, when I’m using the calculator, what streams of income count towards my assessment?
Crystal Paduch
Your last year’s taxable income. So one of the main components of a child support assessment are incomes, which is why it’s important to ensure the income is used in the assessment, particularly if you’re, on a private arrangement, are correct and parents are aware of the options available to them in relation to updating their income circumstances if needed. So Child Support will receive automatically the parents income from the ATO when they lodge their tax each year. This income will be automatically received by child support from the ATO and implemented in a child support assessment, which creates a new child support period and assessment calculation.
But something I think is important for newly separated parents to be aware of is what post-separation income is. This is something that a lot of parents are not aware of. So some parents will make arrangements to earn additional income after separation in order to, I guess, reestablish themselves to cover costs such as finding new accommodation or maybe purchasing furniture, household items, or a vehicle. If this income is earned for this purpose, parents can ask for this income not to be considered in the calculation of their child support assessment.
Now, there are eligibility requirements and time frames that need to be met in order for this application to be considered and accepted by Child Support, but it’s something that parents should seek some professional advice about to see if they are eligible for this.
Kate Russell
Okay, so it’s all about being really transparent with how much you’re earning and really transparent about where that money is going, and then you could be eligible to not be able to make a bit more money to set yourself up again?
Crystal Paduch
Correct. Yes. Only in the initial stages of separation. So this will only be an option to parents within the first three years after separation. It’s not forever, but it’s in those first three years after separation, it provides them, I guess, that ability to re-establish themselves to move forward financially.
Kate Russell
Right? That’s really good to know. So you mentioned before that the ATO will send last year’s income assessment over to Services Australia, and that’s when people are registered through Services Australia for their child support assessment.
Crystal Paduch
Correct.
Kate Russell
What happens if, during the year, my income changes so I might up my hours or get a new job? Can I have my payments reassessed based on my current circumstances, or does it always happen from the previous financial year?
Crystal Paduch
Yes. It is best to leave your income as per your taxable income information from the previous financial year. However, it is possible to lodge an estimate of your income if you need to. And what an estimate is, is you’re calculating or estimating what your income is going to be for this particular financial year you’re in now, rather than using last year’s income information in your current assessment. Now, a lot of people confuse the term estimate of income. Customers do not need to estimate their income with Child Support – Child Support use the last relevant year of income in the current child support assessment, that is, last year’s taxable income in the current child support assessment. The only reason a customer would or even could lodge an estimate of their income with child support is if their income has decreased by 15% or more since the last financial year.
So when you’re asking about if your income changes so if you take on more work or if your income increases, no, you cannot lodge an estimate with child support to increase your income. It’s only there this option is only there for customers whose income circumstances have decreased. So, for example, if they have ceased employment or had a change of employment circumstances that has resulted altered in a decrease in their income, they have the option to lodge an estimate of their income in that situation.
Kate Russell
Okay, so you’re talking about estimates? Hey, look, I’ve just got a Services Australia bill about childcare overpayment. So, you know, I know you can get if your estimates out a little bit, you might get a bill. Or say you do tax return and you’ve paid too much tax, you’ll get it back at the end. So what happens if last year’s income was higher or this year’s income works out higher? Is there some kind of tax return-style lump sum payment or repayment that might have to be made at the end of the year?
Crystal Paduch
Yes, in some cases. So it really depends on what income Child Support are using in your assessment. So if, for example, you’re lodging your tax each financial year, Child Support will just pick up that income information and move forward with it. Because you’re lodging your tax on time and that is in line with the time frame sets of that particular individual with the ATO, Child Support will reassess your child support assessment in line with that income and move forward with it. So that’s why I say it’s always safer to just lodge your tax and use taxable incomes rather than trying to predict or estimate what you’re going to earn that financial year.
Because if you choose to estimate, say your circumstances have changed, you’ve ceased employment, you’ve resulted in a decrease in your income this financial year, so you can’t afford to pay child support based on last year’s taxable income. That’s fair enough. You lodge your income estimate for that financial year to change your child support assessment, recognising your financial circumstance have changed.
But it’s so important that if you do this, if you choose to do this, you need to update you do need to update your income with Services Australia when your income circumstances increase. So if you do go back to work. If your income does increase again you need to continually update that information with child support throughout that financial year to ensure your estimate income is accurate because what will happen in that case is when you do lodge your tax that taxable income will be reconciled against the income information you provided to Child Support and if there is any discrepancies you will end up with a debt that you need to repay possible penalties as well or over payments if you’re the receiving parent of Child Support and you’ve lodged your estimate.
So it is really important to understand properly how incomes are used in child support assessment and how they differ from how Centrelink implement incomes in their assessment there because they are different.
Kate Russell
Okay right. So really important to get some advice on this even if you’ve been in the system in the Centrelink system.
Crystal Paduch
Oh absolutely. If you are considering lodging an estimate it’s best to get professional assistance or advice life before doing this as I’ve definitely seen so many customers unintentionally get this wrong and have huge financial implications as a result.
Kate Russell
If I’ve underpaid what I should have done, so, say, for example, as you just mentioned, I had a change in my circumstances, I made an estimate, but then I went back to work and I forgot, or just didn’t get around to updating my estimate. At the end of the year, can that money be taken out of, say, my tax return and paid to the parent of my children?
Crystal Paduch
Yes. So that will automatically happen. So Centrelink and the tax office are aligned in that way so that information will come through from the tax office. If there is an available tax refund there for Child Support to take, they will automatically take that to go towards that child support debt.
Kate Russell
Okay, right. But that’s only if Services Australia are collecting.
Crystal Paduch
Correct? Yes.
Kate Russell
Okay. Right. So I can see, even if everything is great and amicable with your partner, when you separate, having that Services Australia collection does give you some safeguards, doesn’t it?
Crystal Paduch
It does. So private arrangements can be good, but it’s important that incomes are correctly reflected in the assessment. So if taxable incomes are not being used, then private, private collection may not be the best option for you.
Kate Russell
Okay, and what if I have a private collection, how will I ever know what my partner’s income was?
Crystal Paduch
So, on a private collection arrangement, the case is still registered with Services Australia Child Support. So that means you’re still going to receive assessment notices from them. So you’re still going to get the same assessment notices as if you were on a Child Support collect arrangement.
Kate Russell
Right. But they’re just not doing the collection form, correct? Yes. And then you mentioned earlier on, there’s one where you don’t register it with Child Support Services Australia. So what happens then?
Crystal Paduch
In that case, you will never know because if it’s not registered with Services Australia, then there will be no assessment letters, you won’t know what the other party’s income is at all.
Kate Russell
Okay, right. And then say you’ve separated and you’ve got really young children and this is going to go on for 16, 17 more years. Then by not registering it, you just have no idea, really what’s happening.
Crystal Paduch
That’s right. That’s why I think that option is only good where parents are really amicable and so that way it’s not, I suppose, necessary for each parent to really know what’s happening in each other’s financial lives, I suppose, because if they’re supporting the children, everyone is happy with the way the children are being supported, then there’s no need for that to happen. So that option is really only there for people who are not in need of Family Tax Benefits, support payments and are amicable enough to manage their child support on their own.
Kate Russell
Right. And that you foresee that you’ll stay amicable for the next decade and a half?
Crystal Paduch
That’s right. You can change so you can change the option if you’ve your circumstances change, and quite often they do, you can change your mind. You can register a child support case down the track. They won’t backdate, they only take it from the date you register it. But you can change your options option if you wanted to.
Kate Russell
Okay, cool. So what about if you’re concerned that your partner’s income isn’t listed correctly or, you know, it’s not really reflected on the ATO’s financial statements about what they might be earning, that there might be cash in hand. Is there anything you can do about that?
Crystal Paduch
This is something that we do assist many clients with in relation to these types of concerns. There are options to have one or both parents incomes reviewed if they do not believe the income used in the child support assessment are a correct reflection of the parent’s actual income or earning capacity. When you talk about cash in hand, that can be an issue, because when it comes to reviews, there really does need to be some kind of paper trail in order to be able to determine what a parent’s income actually is. However, there are options. There are options to look at, and you should reach out and get some professional advice about what the possibilities are for your particular situation.
Kate Russell
And then if my partner is maybe not getting an ex partner or other is not getting cash in hand, but they might be on a pay system where there’s a retainer plus commission or self employed and things go up and down or they own their own business. How do these income structures affect your child support payment?
Crystal Paduch
So reportable fringe benefits, so things such as salary, packaging and things like that will be added back on for child support purposes, this is generally done automatically when Child Support received the income information from the ATO. Self employment is a bit it different. So if a customer is self employed, it will depends if they’re, I guess, a sole trader or a company or maybe range of income through a trust. There are different income structures that can affect child support payments and this is where a customer may look at wanting to conduct a review of the parent income through a formalised process. Again, this will depend on the individual situation and circumstance because formal reviews are not always the most appropriate or best option for all customers. And it’s important to discuss your situation first before making that application for review to minimize the possibility of a possible adverse or unfavorable decision being made if a review is undertaken by child support.
Kate Russell
Okay, so it won’t always fall in your favor if you’re questioning it?
Crystal Paduch
Exactly right. Yeah.
Kate Russell
What happens if your ex partner simply does not pay the child support?
Crystal Paduch
Yeah, so there are certain collection actions Child Support can take if the case is under a Child Support collection method to assist in the recovery of child support debt. Unfortunately, they’re not always successful. They are limited in their collection powers and can never guarantee collection.
But collection action that they can take, that Child Support can take in some cases is such things as issuing a notice to an employer to garnish payment from their wages, or issuing a notice to garnish a lump sum from a bank account which is held in that person’s name, or preventing a person from leaving the country unless they paid their child support debt. And in some cases, litigation action can take place if assets are found in a person’s name and the debt is of a certain amount.
Child Support ability to collect from self-employed people can sometimes be quite limited. And we assist many clients here at Child Support Consultants with mediating a child support collection outcome where they have been unable to resolve the desired collection outcome from Child Support.
Kate Russell
Okay, so you mediate between the ex-couple, right? How do you find that goes?
Crystal Paduch
Most cases, quite well, because a lot of the time, debts are occurring purely because of a misunderstanding of the debt and how it’s occurred. So I find that a lot of paying parents who have incurred a debt, are actually okay with repaying it if the repayment option is reasonable and in line with what they’re actually able to afford to repay. And they understand how the debt occurred because a lot of the time they just don’t think it’s correct or they don’t think it’s fair. But if we explain to them in an understandable way how this debt has occurred, why they owe this debt, and discuss options of repayment that are a little bit more flexible than what child support can offer.
Kate Russell
Because you sit outside Child Support and you’re an independent offering independent advice, you can go that extra step?
Crystal Paduch
Yes.
Kate Russell
Outside those kind of more rigid rules of child support.
Crystal Paduch
Correct.
Kate Russell
So, Crystal, there seems to be so many different aspects to child support. It can affect so many different things and it can have quite long-term implications. Can you talk me through a typical consult that you might do with a client when they come to you for advice about setting up their child support?
Crystal Paduch
Okay, so a typical consultation with us here would start with what we call our Clarity Package. So that’s an hour consultation that we conduct via Zoom so we can meet each other. And I guess it’s like a discovery call or discovery consultation to determine what your needs are, what the customer’s needs are in relation to their interaction with us.
So it may be that they’re just starting out their child support journey and wanting some direction and guidance. Or sometimes there are customers that are already within Child Support and they’re having some issues there. And so we go through what those particular issues are and determine what the best way forward would be for that particular family.
Kate Russell
Okay, and that’s the session that you can book through The Separation Guide website, right?
Crystal Paduch
Absolutely.
Kate Russell
Wonderful. All right. And then you have other services that you can help people with. What other services do you offer?
Crystal Paduch
Yes. So we provide full representation to customers so they’re customers who may not, I guess, have the time to deal with child support matters, and they would prefer to appoint a representative on their behalf to deal with child support for them. Or there may be customers who just don’t have the ability, for whatever reason, there may be a barrier there that’s causing conflict whenever they contact Child Support. And it’s best for them to appoint a representative on their behalf to deal with child support for them.
We have packages to assist customers with creating agreements. So child support agreements. So we talked about how child support create formula assessments. Parents do have an option. They do have another option there where they can choose to create their own agreement that is setting the child support themselves as to what they believe would be a better option for them in relation to child support. So we can assist them with creating an agreement in line with what their family’s needs are.
And full reviews. So these are usually not people who are just starting out with Child Support, a review of child support. We call this the Peace of Mind package. So this is for customers who may be with Child Support and feel that their case may be inaccurate and they want a review of their case. To find out what they can do to move forward and fix a possible error that they may think may be on their assessment.
And we also run training sessions. So if you have a group. If you’re maybe a parenting group and you you want to get together and just have discussion with us here at Child Support Consultants as a group and ask – it’s more of a Q and A. Where you can ask questions and we can answer them on the spot for you. That can be a good and cost-effective way to get the answers that you need as well.
Kate Russell
Right. So because you sit outside Services Australia, but you know all about the inside of Services Australia, you can be that person that they have some continuity with, I suppose. You’re not talking to a different person every time you phone up and having to explain your case every single time.
Crystal Paduch
That’s exactly right. And that can be quite daunting and overwhelming for some people to have to have that conversation over and over again and become quite frustrating. So you will get that consistent information every time you call and speak to the same person every time as well.
Kate Russell
Okay, so the people working in Services Australia are doing a wonderful job, but the way it’s set up isn’t always the best way for people to have that continuity and to have that level of service that you guys can offer.
Crystal Paduch
That’s right. Exactly right. We can tailor something for your particular family’s needs because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to families. So when it comes to Child Support, it’s the same thing. You really need to know your options and make the choice that’s best for you.
Kate Russell
Great. And set you up to have some security and have an agreement that you’re both satisfied with.
Crystal Paduch
Exactly right. That’s right.
Kate Russell
For your kids. And they’re the centre of it all, right?
Crystal Paduch
Yeah. That’s what it’s all about. Absolutely.
Kate Russell
That was Crystal Paduch, founder of Child Support Consultants.

Child support payments can be a real source of conflict between separated parents. Anything you can do to try to reduce this conflict will be better not only for you and your ex-partner, but especially for your children. Even if the conflict is about money to you, it really can feel to your kids like the conflict is about them. Book a session with Crystal through The Separation Guide if you need it. The link is in the show notes.
If you’d like to learn more about your options i
n separation, or you want to be put in touch with professionals to help guide you through, please go to theseparationguide.com.au and complete our 3-minute interactive Q&A, or check out our other podcasts and blogs. If you’ve found the information today useful, please subscribe, share and leave us a review. It’s a great way to help our podcast reach others going through separation.
In the spirit of reconciliation, The Separation Guide acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.