Child Support Amendment Bill misses opportunity

The Child Support Amendment Bill misses the opportunity to address gaps in current child support legislation, the New Zealand Law Society says.

As the Bill is currently drafted, child support assessments displace voluntary and independent agreements which can mean children and parents are left with no certainty about the financial support of children.

The Law Society told Parliament’s Social Services committee today that it strongly suggests amending the Bill to make voluntary and independent child support agreements binding and enforceable to enable financial security for all parties involved.

Presenting the Law Society’s submission on the bill, Family Law Section Deputy Chair Catriona Doyle said that it was regrettable that the Bill had missed an opportunity to amend glaring failures in current child support legislation.

“Parties involved in child support often resolve issues on the basis of voluntary agreements. These agreements can be displaced merely by one party’s successful application for an assessment.  It undermines the settlement process for those agreements to be set aside so easily.

“The current Government encourages the self-determination and self-responsibility of New Zealanders. This Bill needs to be amended to give us the tools to be able to do this and to protect both parties and children if situations change,” she said.    

As currently drafted, the Child Support Amendment Bill will also not deliver the “simple, efficient, equitable and transparent” scheme that is intended, the Law Society says.

Inland Revenue has created a proposed child support formula that is so complicated it will be almost impossible for parents to calculate their liability or entitlements, the Law Society says. This may mean the amount of child support being paid reduces, possibly to the detriment of women and children.

“The child support formula needs to be simplified so that it reflected the intention of the child support scheme. While there is a general understanding of the formula, the detail of it is extremely complex and virtually impossible to understand.

“The onus is on Inland Revenue to provide quick straightforward advice. If the formula is to be enacted as currently drafted, it is essential that the Inland Revenue website has all the necessary details to enable people to check their liability,” Ms Doyle says.

Contact: New Zealand Law Society Family Law Section Deputy Chair, Catriona Doyle

Phone: (04) 237 4063 or 021 374 063