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  • Divorced parents to reveal assets
  • By Patricia Karvelas
  • The Australian
  • 29/12/2003 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 75 articles in 2003 )
Insurance and superannuation companies will be forced to notify a government agency before they deliver lump-sum payments to divorced parents under a wide-ranging crackdown on people who hide their real assets and avoid paying child support.

However, a controversial proposal to give divorced parents automatic 50-50 joint custody of their children - first raised by John Howard - has been rejected.
The joint Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs will table today a report recommending a radical overhaul of the child support payment system, which would give bureaucrats unprecedented rights to parents' private financial information.

The recommendations aim to address the problem of separated parents who fail to meet their financial obligations to their children by hiding how much money they have.

The Australian has learned that the proposed changes to the system would require employers to give the child support agency details of any redundancy packages paid to employees.

Divorced parents would no longer be able to reduce the level of child support they are required to pay by putting their assets and money into the names of their new partners.

A controversial recommendation in the report would allow the child support agency access to joint bank account information - previously considered off-limits.

But in a concession to non-custodial fathers, who complained that they suffered financial hardship under the current system, the committee will recommend a shake-up of the formula used to estimate the amount of child support they are required to pay.

At the moment non-custodial parents pay a basic rate of 18per cent of their gross income above $12,315. But the committee proposes only the earnings from 38 hours of work a week be taken into account - meaning income received from second jobs would be off-limits.

Divorced parents who paid the mandated minimum of just $5 a week in child support would be forced to double their payments under a key recommendation in the report, affecting 40per cent of non-custodial parents - most of them men.

Lone Fathers Association president Barry Williams said the committee had played into the hands of the Chief Justice of the Family Court, Alistair Nicholson, and the legal profession, who had all warned against giving separated parents 50-50 custody.

"It's not over yet, we are going to ask John Howard to introduce shared care. It's just ridiculous that they've rejected it," Mr Williams said yesterday.

"The number of submissions for shared care far outweighed those against it. They've played into the hands of the people with vested interests: the Family Court, women's groups and the legal profession. They've pressured the committee to reject it."

The joint custody idea has suffered a series of attacks, including from Justice Nicholson, who warned that the proposal could harm the interests of children.

The Children's Court said in its submission: "If separated parents are expected to share their children equally ... the legislation will create a normative standard which will be unattainable in practice for many, and which may jeopardise the best interests of the child."

The report is likely to include other controversial recommendations, including the introduction of a tribunal to deal with custody disputes outside the Family Court - an idea Justice Nicholson has slammed as unconstitutional and impractical.

Recommendations to formalise the rights of grandparents in child custody disputes are also likely to be in the final report, with the court and tribunal being forced to give grandparents access to their grandchildren in settlements.

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