My ex-husband and I both work. He earns slightly more than me, has 14% custody of the kids, was arbitrarily assigned 24% of their costs, and is told to pay $63 a week in child support. I work 33 hours a week, have 86% custody, and am assigned the remaining 76% of costs. While I had pushed for equal custody at the time we separated, he was uninterested in more than fortnightly visits and moved away from Sydney to regional NSW.
The topic of single parent welfare is never far from public and political discussion, and it’s generally portrayed as the problem of single mothers burdening the tax paying public. The inequality ingrained in the making of such polices is very rarely acknowledged or questioned, and this I believe is largely because the vast majority of people left negatively affected by them are not in a position to publicly raise their concerns or influence social policy.
The Child Support Agency (CSA), the federally funded body designed to dictate post-separation finances for costs of raising kids, has its own completely abstruse equations for assessments. Trying to make sense of them is virtually impossible with their use of incredibly subjective words and terms. But what can be deduced easily is the indisputable disparity in their delegation of costs. To annotate this, (and keeping mind, I had an amicable divorce, with no financial assets to separate) I’ll detail my own CSA assessment.
I recently started a new job and required full-time before and after school care (OSH) for my two kids. The full annual costs including vacation care are well over $10,000, and I think those costs should be halved. For the first time since I originally called at the time of my marriage ending in 2009, I rang the CSA to discuss splitting both the cost of OSH and school fees. In short, I was told quite simply, “no”.
This was because neither my ex-husband’s children’s schooling nor out of hours care “directly benefits him”. Apparently the father shouldn’t be expected to contribute towards those expenses because he doesn’t personally gain any direct benefit. Despite the fact that he works full time, and had he actually had any more custody than every second weekend, he too would have to access OSH to work. What followed was more upsetting.
Having access to my own financial information, I was informed by the CSA representative that I earned so little, and with children so young, I could still apply for the Single Parent Pension. I replied that I knew that, and I wasn’t interested. The CSA representative went on to explain that as a single parent I was under no obligation to pay the public school fees, and that I should speak to the school about a reduced rate. She suggested I do the same for the OSH centre. In short she recommended I make myself a charity case and rely on the benevolence of others for the costs of raising my own kids.