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  • Better deal for divorced dads
  • By Patricia Karvelas
  • The Australian
  • 14/06/2005 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 47 articles in 2005 )
A RADICAL new formula for calculating how much divorced parents should contribute to raising their children is the centrepiece of an overhaul of the nation's child support system to be released today.

Under the more controversial of two models being proposed, the biological parents' incomes would be combined and fathers would then pay a percentage of the cost of raising their child, irrespective of how much they earned.

As it stands, a mother with custody of her children can earn up to $39,312 without affecting the amount of maintenance paid by the father.

But the child-custody taskforce report has called for the practice of quarantining a mother's income to be scrapped.

Under new formulas being proposed, both parents would contribute a percentage of the cost of raising their child based on how many nights a child spent in their care.

The most radical plan would see the cost of raising a child calculated at a standardised rate and applied to all children of divorced parents, regardless of their income.

But a compromise option would combine a generic cost-of-child assessment with the combined real incomes of the parents.

Income on which child support is paid is currently capped at $130,000 of a non-custodial parent's income, but under the new models the cap would apply to the "combined adjustable taxable income" of both parents and become $160,384. This will effectively lower the amount paid by richer fathers.

Divorced fathers on low incomes will also be forced to pay more in child support, with the minimum amount rising from $5 a week to $20.

And parents on unemployment benefits who are automatically docked $5 a week in child-support payments will, for the first time, have those payments indexed to CPI, effectively raising the amount they must pay by only 75c a week.

The move would affect about 40 per cent of non-custodial parents, mostly men, who now pay $5 a week or less in child support payments. The increase still falls short of the parliamentary report into child custody's call for a doubling in minimum child support from $5 to $10 a week.

The taskforce report, headed by Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson, also recommends that divorced fathers who spend more time with their children should pay less in maintenance.

Presently, non-custodial parents have to see their children 109 nights a year before they can reduce their child support payments.

Under the new model, fathers who have their children between 51 days and 128 nights a year will pay 24per cent of the child's total costs, after which their "child support liability will be reduced accordingly". This may mean paying less than the present formula, which generally takes 18 per cent of the non-custodial parent's income for one child, and 32per cent for three.

The taxpayer would then foot the bill for the reduction in income that single mothers face as a result of receiving less support from fathers.

Frustrations over child custody and support rank among the most common complaints raised with government backbenchers.

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