After an application for a review of a child support decision is received by the SSAT, a Case Manager is assigned to each case. As the other parent is automatically a party in most child support reviews, a letter is sent to him/her. The SSAT sends a letter notifying the other parent that an application for an SSAT review has been lodged and encloses a copy of the application form, or the SSAT's record of the application if it was taken over the telephone. The Child Support Registrar then has 28 days to provide the SSAT, the applicant and the other parent with a written explanation of the decision and any other relevant documents from the Child Support file. Once these documents have been received, the SSAT notifies the applicant and the other parent of an appointment time for a hearing, or in some circumstances, a directions hearing.
Each application to the SSAT is assigned a Case Manager. The SSAT Case Manager isnotthe same person as the Case Manager at Department of Human Services (Child Support). The Case Manager is the first point of contact for parties wishing to contact the SSAT about their SSAT review. Parties must not attempt to contact a member of the SSAT outside a directions hearing or hearing setting.
The Case Manager's role is to:
What cannot be done by the Case Manager?
- who will be permitted into the hearing room
- whether another person will be permitted to make submissions on a party's behalf
- issue notices and directions for the production of documents or witnesses
- make a decision and provide a statement of reasons
The Case Manager will not record the detail of a party's discussion about the case, other than is necessary for administrative purposes. They will not record the detail of conversations and will not pass this information to the SSAT members. Consequently parties should not assume that members are aware of all the detail of conversations with Case Managers.
If any party has any concerns about their personal security, it
is important that this information is provided to the Case Manager
at the earliest possible opportunity. At most sites the SSAT
routinely organises the attendance of a security guard where any
party is attending a child support hearing in person.
If there are any particular security concerns, such as restraining orders or family violence orders, a copy of the order must be provided to the SSAT. The SSAT will then make an assessment as to the most appropriate mode of the hearing in light of that information.
The SSAT may hold a directions hearing if such a hearing would
assist the Tribunal in its review of the decision.
A directions hearing is usually held in 'change of assessment' reviews.
The member who convenes the directions hearing will:
A directions hearing is conducted, by telephone, by the SSAT
member who will preside at the hearing of the review. The telephone
used by a party must be in a quiet area where the party will not be
interrupted or overheard. A mobile phone should not be used as loss
of connection or audibility problems may occur.
As something said at the directions hearing might be sought to be relied on at the hearing of the review, the directions hearing will be electronically recorded. A party must not electronically record any part of a directions hearing.
A person who has lodged an application with the SSAT can withdraw their application at any time. This must be done in writing - which can be by e-mail communication. If an application for review is withdrawn it is taken, under section 100A of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, to have been dismissed by the SSAT Principal Member. Both parties have 28 days, or such longer period as allowed by the SSAT Principal Member or a delegate in special circumstances, to apply for the application for review to be reinstated. A request for reinstatement must include a written statement of the grounds for making the request Where the request is made more than 28 days after receipt of the notification that the application for review was dismissed, the request must also include a written statement of the reasons for the delay in making the request.
Most hearing panels consist of one or two members however the
size and composition of the panel is determined by the nature and
complexity of the application. The legislation permits a maximum
panel size of four although it is extremely rare for such a panel
to be formed.
A Presiding Member is responsible for the proper conduct of the hearing and the effective determination of the case.
Many SSAT hearings are conducted face-to-face with the applicant
and other parties in the same room. It is possible to have a
hearing where one party is present in the SSAT hearing room and the
other party participates by telephone or by video link. It is a
matter for the SSAT to decide by what method a hearing is
conducted. Where possible, hearings are conducted face-to-face as
the interests of the applicant and other parties are usually well
served and protected when members, applicants and other parties
have the opportunity to speak directly in a hearing
Telephone conferencing continues to provide an alternative in appropriate cases.
The installation of video-conferencing facilities in all SSAT registries aims to maximise the number of face-to-face hearings, while minimising the cost and inconvenience of travel by applicants, other parties and SSAT members.
To ensure the accessibility of its services to those living outside metropolitan areas, the SSAT also conducts hearings in regional centres throughout the country.
For further information about SSAT Hearings please see The Hearing Process.