Part 6A of The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (“The Act”) provides for the change of assessment in special circumstances. In such cases, a parent or carer may apply for an administrative change of assessment by lodging the applicable form and any supporting evidence through the Child Support Agency (“CSA”). This article looks at what these special circumstances are and how they apply.
The CSA will only change an assessment if there is a ‘special circumstance’. The Act sets out ten circumstances where a person can apply for a change of assessment as follows:
- The cost of maintaining a child is significantly affected by the high cost involved in a parent spending time with, or communicating with, the child;
- The cost of maintaining a child is significantly affected by the high costs associated with the child’s special needs;
- The cost of maintaining a child is significantly affected by the high cost of caring for, educating or training the child in the way that the parents intended;
- The child support assessment is unfair as a result of the child’s income, the child’s earning capacity, or the child’s property or financial resources;
- The child support assessment is unfair as a result of the payer having paid money, or transferred goods or property to the child, the other parent, or to a third party for the benefit of the child;
- The cost of maintaining the child is significantly affected by high childcare costs for the child (if the child is under 12);
- A parent’s necessary expenses significantly affect their capacity to support the child;
- A child support assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity, property or financial resources of a parent;
- A parent’s capacity to support the child is significantly affected by any of the following:
- their duty to maintain other children or persons,
- their necessary expenses in supporting other children or persons whom they have a duty to maintain,
- the high costs involved in them spending time with or communicate with another child or person they have a duty to maintain;
- A parent’s responsibility to maintain a resident child significantly reduces their capacity to support the child support child.
In order for a change of assessment to be granted one of the 10 special circumstances needs to apply to a case AND the CSA must also be satisfied that it would be just and equitable and otherwise proper to depart from the administrative assessment of child support.
Once an application is lodged, the CSA may either accept or refuse the application. If the application is not accepted, an objection to the decision may be lodged within 28 days of the decision. If an application is accepted, the CSA will send a copy to the other parent to allow them the opportunity to respond to the application.
The CSA can conduct further inquiries, including interviews with the parties, if they think it is necessary to come to a decision.
Once the CSA has considered the application, they may decide to leave the assessment unchanged, to adjust the assessment so that a higher amount of child support is payable, or to adjust the assessment so that a lower amount of child support payable. The CSA will provide a statement of reasons explaining how they have come to their decision.
If an adjustment is made, this will be applicable from the date of the decision. It is also possible to apply to have the adjustment made for up to 18 months prior to the date of the application. However, to do so, it is necessary to explain the reason for the delay in seeking an adjustment.
Challenging a Decision
If a decision is made by the CSA in relation to an application that you do not agree with, an objection to the decision may be lodged. An objection must be lodged within 28 days of receiving the decision.
Child Support can be a minefield which is difficult to navigate on your own. If you think a Child Support Assessment has been calculated incorrectly or your circumstances have changed and you seek to challenge an assessment, contact our Family Law Solicitors to discuss the options available to you.