TRIBUNAL: Senior Member R Ellis
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) affirmed a decision under review by the Child Support Registrar (the Agency) to disallow the credit of payments made by one of the parents toward school books and fees.
Mr and Ms Tutton are the parents of two children and at the time of separation they entered into an agreement about the ongoing care of the children, including one which was school aged. The initial agreement provided for Mr Tutton to contribute $900 towards child support and mortgage repayments. Both parents were to pay an equal share of educational expenses (including school fees, uniforms, equipment and excursions/camps) and Mr Tutton was to have care of the children for between 7 and 10 nights per month.
Mr Tutton applied to the Agency to have amounts he had paid for education costs to be credited as non-agency payments under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (the Act). This was based on his understanding that he only shared in the costs of educating the children while he continued to have some care of the children and, since he no longer had care of the children, he no longer needed to share the cost of educational expenses.
Ms Tutton told the Tribunal it was not her understanding there was a link between care arrangements and payment of any education costs for the children. She claimed that Mr Tutton should pay his equal share of the education costs in addition to child support, despite the change to care.
After considering the circumstances, the Tribunal was satisfied that the payments made for school fees by Mr Tutton in 2020 should be refused as non-agency payments for the following reasons:
- Some of the payments made by Mr Tutton were paid before the child support liability was registered for collection by the Agency and the legislation did not allow those to be credited.
- The payments made while the child support was registered for collection by the Agency could not be credited under s71A of the Act as there was no mutual intention that those payments were in lieu of child support.
- Those payments may have been able to be credited under s71C of the Act as prescribed non-agency payments, however because of the written agreement between the parties about their separate liability for school fees, it was appropriate to refuse to credit the payments under section 71D of the Act.
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