Every parent has a duty to financially maintain their children. This financial support is known as child support and is generally calculated or “assessed” in accordance with a formula prescribed by the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 and administrated by the Child Support Registrar.
However, parents can make their own private agreements separate to a child support assessment. For a private agreement to be binding, the agreement needs to satisfy specific legal requirements. This agreement is known as a “Binding Child Support Agreement” or a “Limited Child Support Agreement”.
Depending on what you are seeking, the Court can also make specific orders about child support such as an order departing from the child support assessment, or the payment of school fees. The Court can also set aside a Child Support Agreement.
Navigating child support can be complicated. At Dorter Family Lawyers & Mediators, we are expert family lawyers and will provide you with specialist advice about child support, tailored to your unique situation.
What is child support?
Child support refers to the financial responsibility that separated parents have towards the children of the relationship. Child support ensures that the children of a marriage, de facto relationship, or otherwise, are financially supported by both parents following a divorce or separation. Parents may manage child support arrangements between themselves or seek legal assistance in the form of a Child Support Agreement, Child Support Assessment or Court order.
Types of child support arrangements
Self-managed Child Support
This is an informal avenue where the child’s parents decide between themselves:
- How much to pay
- When to pay (periodically, non-periodically, lump sum, etc.)
- How to pay (directly to the receiving parent, indrenclty to third parties)
However, if you choose self-managed child support, you may only be able to receive the base rate of Family Tax Benefit.
If self-managed child support is proving to be unsuccessful, you may alternatively choose to apply for a Child Support Agreement.
Child Support Agreement
This is a formal agreement that is negotiated and agreed upon by both parents, but is governed by Services Australia, the official Government body responsible for the assessment and collection of child support. It’s important to consider how entering into an Agreement may affect any government benefits you currently receive.
The two types of formal agreements include:
Binding Child Support Agreements
This is a long term agreement which allows parents to decide on how much they will contribute in child support payments, as well as how and when they will pay and receive child support.
Periodic payments, for example, require that regular payments be transferred directly to the receiving parent. Non-periodic payments, however, usually take the form of reimbursement for the typical expenses involved in raising children, such as school fees and medical bills. To receive a lump sum payment under a Binding Child Support Agreement, a Child Support Assessment will need to be obtained.
Under this agreement, Services Australia are able to recover overdue child support from either paying parent. However, for a Binding Child Support Agreement to be valid, both parents must obtain independent legal advice and receive a legal certificate.
Limited Child Support Agreements
Unlike a Binding Support Agreement, a Limited Child Support Agreement does not require that parents seek independent legal aid or that the agreement last longer than 3 years. However, it does require that a Child Support Assessment be carried out before it can be accepted by Services Australia.
Moreover, this type of agreement mandates that the payment amount be equal to, or greater than, the annual rate set out in the Child Support Assessment.
Child Support Assessment
A Child Support Assessment determines how much should be paid in child support, and by whom. The assessment is based off a legislative child support formula that broadly considers:
- The child’s costs
- Individual and combined income
- The child’s age
- Who has primary care/how is care shared
- Other dependent children
You can get an estimate of the amount of payable child support by using the Services Australia online child support estimator.
Here When You Need Us
If you are considering separation or divorce, or have separated/divorced, and wish to know your entitlements to child support, it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist child support lawyer. At Dorter Family Lawyers & Mediators our team is here to help you navigate the process.
With proven experience in negotiating parenting arrangements and providing independent child law advice in the course of Child Support Agreements, Dorter Family Lawyers & Mediators is dedicated to achieving the best outcome that serves your unique situation.