If you and your partner separate, you might wonder how you are going to provide for the children, who is financially responsible and what your legal obligations are.
We understand you will have questions and might be feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by the complexity of the legal system. Lees & Givney are able to explain your child support rights and obligations in language that is easy to understand and can help you navigate the child support system.
What is Child Support?
Child support is money that one parent pays to the other after the breakdown of a relationship to support children of the relationship.
Child support payments may be a regular sum of money, a lump sum payment, or payment to a third party for a child’s expenses, such as school fees or medical costs.
The Two Types of Child Support Agreement
In 2008, legislation allowed parents more flexibility in choosing how they would manage the payment or receipt of child support. Under this legislation, there is the limited child support agreement and the binding child support agreement. In some cases, parents may also make a private agreement that does not involve the Child Support Agency.
A limited child support agreement:
- Must be in writing and signed by both parents and a non-parent carer, if applicable
- Needs to have an assessment of child support liability completed before it will be accepted by the Registrar
- Cannot be varied. A new limited agreement, binding agreement or court order must take its place if it is no longer appropriate.
- Does not require legal advice
- Must be accepted by the Child Support Agency before it will take effect
- May be terminated by one party after three years
- May be terminated if one parent applies for an assessment and finds a difference of more than 15% between the assessment and the limited agreement.
A binding child support agreement:
- Is a formal written agreement, signed by both parents
- Is necessary for the payment of child support in lump sum form
- Must be entered into with independent legal advice
- Must contain written evidence that each party has received independent legal advice
- Can be made for an amount agreed by both parents. (This may affect Centrelink payments that you receive if the agreement amount is different to a child support assessment).
- Cannot be varied
- Can be terminated in limited circumstances.
Who is covered by a Child Support Agreement?
Children whose parents separated on or after 1st October 1989 or who were born after this date or who have a sibling that is an eligible child are covered.
The child must also be less than 18 years of age, have a connection with Australia, and must not be living in a domestic relationship with a partner.
Parents who are applying for child support must be:
- An eligible carer for the child
- Legally separated from the other parent
- An Australian resident or resident of a country that has a reciprocal agreement
The Child Support Agency will also take into account a parent’s commitments to other children when making an assessment.
How Does an Assessment Work?
The Child Support Agency uses a complex formula to determine the amount of child support each parent pays or receives. This is based on the time children spend in your care, the cost of their care, and both of your incomes. The assessment also takes into account your individual circumstances and commitments when determining the amount you must pay.
Payments may be taken from wages, paid privately, or paid to the Child Support Agency.
How is the Collection of Child Support Enforced?
The Child Support Agency may deduct child support debts from wages, or it may recover debts from tax returns. The payee may also initiate court proceedings to recover a debt. In some cases, the Registrar may order an employer to take child support from an employee’s wages, or order Centrelink to deduct it from a benefit or pension.
How do I Make an Objection?
If you don’t agree with a decision made by the Child Support Agency, you have 28 days to object. Centrelink recommends that you talk to them before lodging an objection as there could be other options for resolving the matter.
If you wish to proceed with your objection:
- It must be in writing
- It needs to include the date on the decision letter sent by Centrelink as well as the date you received the letter
- It must state the decision you object to and why
- It should include evidence to back up your reasons for objecting
How We Can Help You
At Lees & Givney, our extensive experience in Family Law enables us to help parents navigate the complex child support system.
To learn more on how we can help with child support matters, please call us on 02 9816 1122.