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Tribunal: Member Fiona Hewson

The applicant, Mr Carey, was liable to pay child support to Ms Carey for their child. Mr Carey claimed that he had paid for a number of flights for child 1 to travel to see him, totalling more than $3,000. He asked for the total amount to be deducted from his child support liability as a credit. There were two relevant periods where flights were paid for by Mr Carey. The first was from November 2014 to May 2016, which included eight flights. The second was during November 2017 and included two flights.

The Department of Human Services considered his request and decided that only $232 from the payments made in 2014 to 2016 should be credited against his child support liability. The Department decided no credits should be made for the payments made in 2017. Mr Carey objected to both decisions and an objection officer within the Department disallowed his objections. Mr Carey applied for a review of these decisions by the AAT.

Child support payments that are made to a party other than the Child Support Registrar may be credited against the child support liability if certain conditions are met.  The Child Support Registrar (or other decision maker) may refuse to credit even if the conditions are met if satisfied that, in the circumstances of the particular case, the amount ought not to be credited.[1]

The AAT first looked at the two payments for flights during November 2017. For the first payment in November 2017, Mr Carey claimed that there was evidence, including emails, which showed that there was an agreement between him and Ms Carey that the payments were to be treated as child support. Ms Carey claimed that she had agreed with Mr Carey that the payment would be treated as child support, however this was done on the assumption that child 1 would return to her. Child 1 remained with Mr Carey, so Ms Carey did not agree that the return flight should be credited as child support. The AAT found that only half the payment should be credited because the child did not make the return journey. This amounted to $177. The AAT noted that Mr Carey could not object to the second payment for a flight in November 2017 because at that point in time he was receiving child support from Ms Carey.

The AAT then looked at the payments for flights from 2014 to 2016. There was no specific written evidence or verbal agreement about the costs of the flights being credited as child support. Mr Carey claimed that there was an agreement that the flights would be treated as child support, and this could be seen from Ms Carey’s actions, because she had agreed to this on other occasions. Ms Carey acknowledged that she had agreed to the arrangement for certain flights but she disagreed that there had ever been a blanket agreement. She said it was her expectation that there would be communication about each flight and she may or may not agree to the payment being credited.

The AAT accepted Ms Carey’s evidence that there was an expectation that there would be explicit agreement to the payments, rather than reliance on a pre-existing agreement. The AAT was not satisfied that both Mr Carey and Ms Carey intended that the payments made between 2014 and 2016 would be treated as child support.

The AAT set aside the decision under review and substituted a decision that an amount of $177 be credited against Mr Carey’s child support liability.

Read the full written decision on AustLII.


[1] Section 71D of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988