Due to a recent corporate fire sale, implosion, what ever you'd like to call it, I found myself joining thousands of my former colleagues unemployed and looking for "new opportunities" (hire me, I'm dead set amazing).
As a parent who also has an ex-wife and children it is incumbent upon me to inform the Department of Human Services (DHS) of any changes to my income within strict time frames. So like a dutiful slave of the state, I called them to advise of my new $0 income status.
The following conversation actually happened:
[DHS] "So taking into account your new income of $0, you will need to pay $114 / month."
[McW] "With an income of $0, how would you expect me to pay that?"
[DHS] "Borrow money from family and friends."
[McW] "You know you just said that out loud, right?"
[DHS] "Yes sir."
[McW] "Okay, so let me clarify this. I have an income of $0, 3 dependent children living with me, one dependent adult and the DHS priority is not for me to provide food and shelter for them but to pay child support?"
[DHS] "That is correct."
[McW] "..and this is something you've not only said out loud but on a phone call that's being recorded for 'service quality and training purposes'."
[DHS] "That is the nature of the legislation and what we are trained to say."
[McW] "You do see the problem here, don't you?"
[DHS] "Yes sir, I do."
[McW] "Are there any other things you're trained to say that might help?"
[DHS] "You could apply for work benefits."
[McW] "Okay, let's think this one through. Let's say I did get the dole, which would be about $400 / fortnight, less than my fortnightly rent even before I commence buying food, would the DHS still want $114 from that?
[DHS] "Yes, child support would be taken from the benefits before they were paid to you."
[McW] [long pause] "Back to the $0 income and obvious incapacity to pay, when the inevitable non-payment occurs, what does the DHS do next?"
[DHS] "Despite your excellent payment history, the DHS would have to pursue avenues for collection."
[McW] "So I have a family of 6 to shelter and support and the DHS will still end up going collect to strip us of whatever they can? That's not particularly helpful to anyone, not those I'm directly supporting nor my children for whom the DHS is collecting child support."
[DHS] "That's correct sir, once a child support debt of $1,000 is accrued, DHS will pursue collection avenues. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
[McW] "Unless you can change the legislation, I think we're good here. Thank you."
Having been in the child support "game" for about 13 years, having seen female friends dudded by former male partners, have seen male friends rorted by former female partners, it's not as though I was unaware the system was truly broken and unfair to all parties in so many cases.
This conversation however, was truly breathtaking. I doubt Douglas Adams could have scripted this any better. :-)