Canberra Times

2 December 2001

Mother blames Child Support Agency for troubles

By FRANK CASSIDY
Canberra Times

A Kambah woman who blamed the Child Support Agency for the psychological problems she and one of her children suffered has been told she should not have gone there for help in the first place.

Sue L, 37, was promised help by the agency in February after seven years of amicable separation from her ex-husband, but she now says she and her two children are worse off.

''The CSA has turned an amicable relationship into one where we just want to kill each other,'' Ms L said.

''And that's now causing problems with the kids.''

She said her teenage son had started seeing a counsellor and she was on stress leave.

''I don't know what psychological effect it will have.

''It's all down to the CSA.''

The woman approached the agency on the advice of her lawyer after she revealed her ex-husband earned $22,000 a year more than she did.

The woman said demands subsequently placed on her ex-husband by the agency and its lack of support for her had backed her into a corner from which she could see no way out.

''You can see why so many parents are committing suicide.''

President of the Sole Parents' Union Kathleen Swinbourne said the woman should not have gone to the agency if she was happy in her relationship.

''Obviously she wasn't happy and now things have blown up in her face she's trying to blame somebody else.

''It's what disgruntled dads do all the time.

''You can't blame the CSA.''

The woman said she was worried about the impact involving the agency had had on her children, 11 and 13.

''They can't cope with their parents not getting on.''

She said she had thought the function of the agency was to ensure the welfare of the children.

''Now I think it is there to keep public servants in a job.''

The agency defended its role, saying its duty was to assist parents financially support their children after separation.

A spokeswoman would not comment on specific cases but said parents should consider their individual circumstances and make choices based upon them.

She said 48 per cent of parents had child-support arrangements that did not involve the agency.

If the agency's assessment proved inappropriate the parents could ask for a change.

Director of the Men's Rights Agency Sue Price agreed the woman brought the problems on herself but said a lot of people experienced the same difficulties. ''The CSA drives wedges between them when money becomes the only interest in the relationship,'' Mrs Price said.

''Concentrating on how much money one parent can get out of the other is bound to cause a lot of disappointment and aggression.''

Mrs Price said it was time the agency looked into the issues raised by the woman.