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TRIBUNAL: Member P Noonan

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) set aside the decision under review in this matter and in substitution, decided to refuse to make a determination as per provisions in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989  (the Act).

In November 2016, a child support assessment was registered with the Child Support Registrar (the Agency) resulting in Mr Greaves being assessed to pay child support to Miss Malghum for their child. This assessment uses a formula, which contains variables such as the parents’ adjusted taxable incomes and their percentages of care of the children.

In November 2019, Miss Malghum applied for a departure from the assessment of child support payable on the basis that the assessment did not adequately take into account the income or financial resources of Mr Greaves, and that their child had special needs resulting in higher costs. In February 2020, the Agency decided to depart from the assessment by increasing the income amount used for Mr Greaves in the assessment. This resulted in Mr Greaves being assessed to pay a higher rate of child support.

Mr Greaves objected to this decision, and in July 2020, the Agency allowed his objection. This decision was to also depart from the assessment, although it used lower incomes for Mr Greaves than the original decision. Miss Malghum then applied to the AAT for an independent review of the objection decision.

When a departure from the standard child support assessment is sought, the Agency considers whether there are special circumstances to justify changing the assessment. If there are special circumstances, it must then be considered whether that would be just, equitable and otherwise proper to change the assessment.

The Tribunal considered both parties’ evidence about their incomes and financial resources, special needs of the child and future needs of the child. This included information about Mr Greaves’ business income, and medical expenses of the child.

The Tribunal was satisfied that if Mr Greaves income and financial resources were more accurately reflected in the assessment, it would increase the amount of child support he would be assessed to pay. However, the proposed increase to child support payments was not materially different from the assessment, and therefore the change was not sufficient to establish special circumstances in this matter. The Tribunal also considered the cost of the child’s medical needs and found they did not significantly impact the costs of the child, and therefore there were no special circumstances in respect of those costs. The Tribunal then set aside the decision under review and, in substitution, decided to refuse to make a determination to depart from the assessment.

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