- Child support is designed to ensure that children receive a proper level of financial support from their parents.
- Parents can choose whether they would prefer to have the amount of child support assessed by the Child Support Agency, or they can come to their own private agreement.
What is Child Support?
In Australia, child support is governed by the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) (“the Act”), which notes that the object of the Act is to ensure that children receive a proper level of financial support from their parents. When parents have separated, in some instances, one parent must assist the other financially to ensure that the needs of the children are being met. This payment is called Child Support.
Who has to pay for child support, and who can receive it?
In assessing whether child support is payable, or whether you are eligible to receive it, it is important to know each parent’s current income, and how often they look after child/ren. You will be liable to pay when your percentage of care of the child/ren is less than your share of the combined income. You will be eligible to receive such when your percentage of care of the child/ren is more than your share of the combined income. For example, if you currently have care of the child/ren for 7 nights per fortnight and earn 25% of the combined income, you will be eligible to receive financial support.
Are there options available?
Parents can choose whether to have their rights and obligations assessed through the Child Support Agency, or they can choose to come to their own private arrangement.
How much do I need to pay if I choose to go through the Child Support Agency?
If the parties choose to go through the Child Support Agency, they will determine the amount payable using a formula detailed in the Act. The formula takes into consideration the number of children, the age/s of the child/ren, the income of each parent and each parents’ share of the care of the child/ren.
Once the amount is determined, the parties will then need to choose how the support will be paid/received. Parents can choose to have it automatically collected by the agency and transferred directly to the receiving parent, or they can choose private collection and arrange payment privately.
Do I also need to pay school fees, uniforms, school excursions, extra-curricular activities if our child support is assessed through the Child Support Agency?
Child support as assessed by the Child Support Agency is designed to cover all aspects of the financial needs of the child/ren. Any school fees, uniforms, school excursions, extra-curricular activities are included in this payment. It is the responsibility of the parent receiving the payment to allocate the funds to the needs of the child/ren. The parent paying Child Support is not obliged to pay any further expenses in relation to the child/ren, although they may wish to do so.
What about clothes? Do I need to buy a set of clothes to have at my house, or should the parent I’m paying child support to send them?
Each parent has a responsibility to care and provide for the children while they are in their care. This means that their needs, such as food and clothing are to be met by the parent who has care of the child at the time. There are no specific rules or requirements that state that a whole set of clothes needs to be purchased for use at each parent’s house. These matters are usually agreed upon between the parties, provided they have an amicable co-parenting relationship. Otherwise, it is possible to include a provision in Consent Orders outlining which parent is responsible for providing the clothes and personal belongings for the time spent at the non-residential parent’s house or requiring each party to provide these items while spending time with them. If you anticipate that this will become an issue, it is important to ensure that this is covered in your Consent Orders, or otherwise request that the Court make such an Order if your matter proceeds to Court.
What do I need to do if we decided on our own agreement?
If the parties choose to come to their own arrangement, it is open to them to agree on any amount they wish. Although there is no requirement that the arrangement is formalised, they do have the option of entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement or a Limited Child Support Agreement. Both Binding Child Support Agreements and Limited Child Support Agreements cover periodic and non-periodic payments. Periodic payments are regular payments of the same amount to cover the financial expenses involved in caring for the child/ren. For example, the agreement may be to pay $350 per week, which will be used to cover the day-to-day expenses such as food and clothing. Non-periodic payments relate to the payment of, or contribution towards, expenses such as school fees, school uniforms, extra-curricular activities, medical expenses and dental expenses.
What is the difference between a Binding Child Support Agreement and a Limited Child Support Agreement?
Parties entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement are required to obtain independent legal advice. The Binding Child Support Agreement contains a certificate stating that, under the Act, the parties have been provided independent legal advice in relation to the Agreement, which must also be signed by the Lawyer. The Binding Child Support Agreement will not be considered binding without these certificates. Unlike Limited Child Support Agreements, there is no requirement that the parties entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement complete a Child Support Assessment, or that the party receiving financial support have at least 35% care of the Child/ren. There is also no restriction on the amount of Child Support payable, and the parties are at liberty to come to their own arrangement.
It is important to note that one of the limitations in entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement is that it will not take into consideration a change of circumstances in the future. For example, where one party remarries, or their income changes substantially, it is not open to amending the Binding Child Support Agreement to take these changes into account.
Limited Child Support Agreements do not require the parties to obtain independent legal advice and do not require a Lawyer’s signature. However, we recommend that parents seek independent legal advice so they are aware of their rights and obligations in relation to Child Support before agreeing. Before a Limited Child Support Agreement will be accepted by the Child Support Agency, the parties must have completed a Child Support Assessment. The amount payable in the Limited Child Support Agreement must be equal to, or more than, the amount contained in the Child Support Assessment. In addition, there is a requirement that the party receiving Child Support must have at least 35% care of the Child/ren.
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ABOUT LARA MENON:
Lara joined the Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers Legal team in August 2018 and is currently working as a Lawyer in our Criminal and Family Law team.
Earlier in 2019, Lara was selected by the NSW Law Society to undertake an internship with the NSW Coroner’s Court, working as a Judge’s Associate for the Deputy State Coroner.
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