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With specialisations in family law, our team is passionate about finding the best solutions for all when it comes to the matter of child support legal services.
Child Support under the Child Support Agency
Under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989, every parent has a primary duty to maintain their child or children. Child support is assessed and collected by the Child Support Agency (CSA), which is part of the Australian Government Department of Human Services. Child Support payments are assessed using a formula considering amongst other factors the respective parent’s income and the time that the children spend with each parent. You can go onto the Department of Health and Human Services website for more information and use the Child Support calculator to get an estimate of child support payments.
It is possible for either party to apply to ‘depart’ from the child support assessment in special circumstances. For example, the parent liable to pay child support may encounter substantial or unusual expense in spending time with the child because they live a considerable distance away from the other parent or because the child has special needs or because of disputes in the true nature of income of the other parent. Parent’s will need to go through a Departure Application with the Child Support Agency to change a Child Support Assessment.
Child Support Agreements
Parents are not obliged to use the CSA and are perfectly entitled to reach their own arrangements regarding child support. If the parties want the arrangements to be formalised then they can enter into either a Binding Child Support Agreement or Limited Child Support Agreement. These are especially relevant if parents want to formalise non- periodic payments like school fees or health insurance payments which are not usually covered by a periodic child support assessment.
Binding Child Support Agreements can only be entered into where both parents are represented by solicitors who will need to give advice about the Agreement and sign a certificate certifying that they have given advice on the advantages or disadvantages of entering into the Agreement. It is very difficult to discharge a Binding Child Support Agreement once you have entered it which is why you need to get legal advice.
The other type of child support agreement is a Limited Child Support Agreement, where a child support assessment will be issued. These Limited Child Support Agreements operate only for three years, after which the parties can renegotiate another agreement if they wish and can be discharged if the notional Child Support Assessment changes by more than 15% from the previous year.
For more information on Child Support, please view our Family Law Guide, an online resource created to help you learn about family law related issues.