ROSIE Waterhouse's enthusiasm for the Australian child support system is largely justified, but not entirely for the right reasons ('Rules to change in CSA shake-up', 4 September). The merits of that system are that it is not retrospective, and that it has an effective review procedure whereby assessments that cause hardship can be adjusted. But it is wrong to suggest that only 2 per cent of assessments are sought to be reviewed. The correct figure is 11 per cent. A high proportion of assessments go forward for review because of the crudity of the Australian formula, which does not take into account circumstances such as travelling and access costs. The Australian formula takes into account far fewer circumstances, and specifically disregards expenses that are taken into account here such as housing costs or the cost of caring for a disabled child. If an Australian-type formula were applied to our retrospective cases, the number seeking review would be massive.
Rosie Waterhouse is also too simplistic in stating that in Australia 'clean break' settlements are allowed to stand. This is perfectly true in a non- benefit case. But in a benefit case only a small element of child maintenance can be capitalised by payment of a lump sum. Over here the rules only allow an assessment to be made in a so-called 'clean break' case where the mother and children are living on social security.
Family Law Bar Association