Understanding Child Support
What is Child Support?
In Australia the Federal Government, through Services Australia, administers the assessment and collection of Child Support to ensure children receive an appropriate level of financial support from their parents after they separate or divorce. Services Australia provides services to parents and carers, assisting them by issuing assessments, reviewing those assessments and facilitating the collection of child support.
How do I apply for child support?
A parent can apply to the Child Support Agency (‘the Agency’) for an assessment to be made, for the other parent to pay them child support to assist with payment of expenses incurred for the benefit of the children of the relationship.
When a parent makes an application for child support, that application means that both they and the other parent will be assessed in respect of the costs of the children. This assessment is made by comparing the respective income of the parents, coupled with the nights per calendar year each child spends with the parents.
When there is more than one child of the relationship, an application must be made for each child. This application can be done online and requires the applicant to provide the following details of both parties:
- Contact details;
- Reference numbers;
- Bank account; and
- Relationship details.
Can I Change the Rate of Child Support Payable?
There may be several reasons how the amount of child support that you have been assessed to pay can change, including an application to change the assessment.
Once your annual rate of child support has been assessed, both you and your ex-partner may be able to apply to the Agency to change the assessment. The Agency is only able to change the assessment if they are satisfied there are special circumstances and the change would be fair to both parents and the child.
There are 10 reasons to apply for a change of assessment, including:
- The costs of raising the child are significantly affected by the high costs of spending time or communicating with the child.
- The costs of raising the child are significantly affected because of their special needs.
- The costs of raising the child are significantly affected because the child is being cared for, educated or trained in the way both parents intended.
- The child support assessment is unfair because of the child’s income, earning capacity, property or financial resources.
- The child support assessment is unfair because you have paid or transferred money, goods or property to your child, the receiving parent or a third party, for the child’s benefit.
- The costs of raising the child are significantly affected by the parent or non-parent carer’s child care costs, and the child is under 12 years of age.
- Your necessary expenses significantly reduce your capacity to support the child.
- The child support assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity, property or financial resources of one or both parents.
- Your capacity to support the child is significantly reduced because of:
a. your duty to maintain another person or child;
b. the special needs of that person or child; and
c. the costs of spending time with or communicating with that person or child.
- Your responsibility to support a resident child significantly reduces your capacity to support another child.
The Agency is required to notify both you and your ex-partner in writing when an application to change a child support assessment is accepted.
By entering into a Child Support Agreement
You and your ex-partner can agree to provide regular payments and/or payments for your children’s expenses that differ from what was assessed by the Agency and enter into a private agreement.
A child support agreement allows payments to be made in a number of ways including periodic payments, lump sum payments and payments for certain expenses (such as private school fees, extra-curricular activities and private health insurance), which are known as non-periodic payments. Further, both you and your partner can agree to enter into a binding agreement that provides for neither party to pay child support at all.
Depending upon the terms of the agreement, non-periodic child support may be made instead of the regular periodic payments or in addition to the regular periodic payments.
There are two types of child support agreements that you and your ex-partner may enter into, namely:
- A Binding Child Support Agreement (‘BCSA’); or
- A Limited child support agreement (‘LCSA’).
BCSAs are intended to provide a high level of certainty and finality about child support arrangements. As such, the terms of an agreement are usually unable to be varied once the agreement is signed and the agreement is much more difficult to have terminated or set aside by a Court.
In comparison, LCSAs are designed to consider changing circumstances and may be brought to an end after three (3) years if either party desires, or sooner if certain changes occur or the Court decides that the child support to be paid pursuant to the agreement is not proper or adequate.
Do you need help understanding child support?
Dorter Family Lawyers and Mediators offer specialist family law advice in Milsons Point on Sydney’s Lower North Shore, and are available to assist you with any questions you may have about child support. Please get in touch with us on (02) 9929 8840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post is an overview only and should not be considered as legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.