Almost all child support assessments in Australia are made administratively by the Child Support Registrar. If you believe the Registrar made an error in its child support assessment, you can seek review of the Registrar’s decision. Reviews are conducted by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). This article explains that process.
Parents have the right to file an objection to certain decisions made by the Registrar, including decisions to:
When the Registrar does not change its original decision in response to an objection, the Registrar’s “objection decision” can be appealed to SSAT.
There are two ways to ask the SSAT to review a child support objection decision.
First, you can make a verbal request for review. You do that by telephoning the SSAT or by going in person to an SSAT office to explain your objection.
Second, you can send SSAT a written application for a review. You can use the appeal form provided by SSAT or you can send SSAT a letter explaining your reason for seeking a review.
You need to apply for a review within 28 days after you receive notice of the objection decision. If you live overseas, that time might be extended to 90 days.
If you are applying for review of a decision on your objection to the Registrar’s determination of your childcare percentage, no time limit applies. You can apply for review at any time.
If you miss the 28-day deadline, you can still apply to SSAT for a review of the objection decision but:
If you apply for an extension of time, your application must provide a good reason for your failure to comply with the 28 day deadline.
If you make a timely request for review of an objection decision, the SSAT will decide whether a hearing should be held on your application. In some cases, the SSAT can decide the issue without a hearing by reviewing documents that you provide. In other cases, it will hold a hearing.
Your dissatisfaction with the decision is not a reason for the SSAT to change it. You need to establish that the SSAT was wrong about the facts or made a mistake of law. If your application has no basis or if it is based on a mistake of law, the SSAT will probably decide without holding a hearing.
If you are given a hearing for the purpose of showing that the Registrar made a mistake of fact, you will need to present evidence. For example, if you think child support should have been based on a larger amount of income, you should present proof of the income that the paying party is actually earning. If you think the Registrar made an incorrect determination of the percentage of care, you should bring evidence (including witnesses) to establish how much time the children spend with each parent.
After it considers the evidence you present, the SSAT will make a decision. It might agree with the Registrar, or it might make a new assessment based on the evidence you present.
Until the SSAT decides your case, the decision of the Registrar will remain in effect. If you think you have solid grounds, you can ask a court for a stay of the Registrar’s decision pending the SSAT’s decision. You should seek the assistance of a lawyer if you want to ask for a stay.