All about child support
What does the law say about child support?
The Child Support Scheme (CSS) began in 1988 and it’s job is to enforce the right of children to be supported by both their parents. The CSS is based upon the Child Support Act which requires 2 important things:
♦ That children receive the proper financial support from their parents (that they are liable to provide). So what that means is if one parent isn’t earning much while the other is doing much better, there will be a greater liability for the bigger earning parent.
♦ That periodic amounts of child support payable by any parent towards the upkeep of the children are paid on a regular and timely basis.
(The WA Parliament, because WA likes to have its own family law regime, has also created laws that adopt what the Commonwealth child support laws say.)
What if my ex doesn’t want to pay child support?
As mentioned, the law states that parents have a duty to financially support their kids (both birth and adopted). Even if one partner believes the child was an “accident” and doesn’t want to be involved, they are still required by law to financially support that child.
A parent is liable to pay child support if they are a legal parent of the child AND either a Resident of Australia, or a resident in another country that cooperates with our child support rules.
So who runs child support?
The Child Support Agency (CSA), and they are part of the Department of Human Services.
Their role includes assessing amounts of child support payable, with a slightly complicated formula but don’t worry because the assessment in essence takes into account the income of both parents; the care arrangements that you both have in place; and the number of dependent children you have (including any dependent kids from other relationships).
The CSA can also collect and transfer child support payments, when it’s requested by parents (or carers). Some parents don’t do this because they prefer a more direct and private way of paying child support that doesn’t involve the CSA having to handle the payments.
Making an Application – Parents
A parent can apply for a child support assessment for a child if they are not living with the other parent of the child as their partner on a genuine domestic basis. Parents can apply for an administrative assessment of child support for a child regardless of the amount of care they provide for their child.
When a parent makes an application for child support to CSA, it means that both they and the other parent will be assessed in respect of the costs of the children and the amount of child support payable will depend on the incomes of both parents and the percentage care you each provide for your children.
The percentage of care you undertake is important in the assessing child support and is usually determined according to the actual care that each of you have of the child. It also pays a big part in the formula used to decide how much child care you may be entitled to.
This actual care can be reflected in a care arrangement between the two of you or with non-parent carers. This agreement might take the form of a written agreement, parenting plan or court order in relation to a child’s care.
Parents are required to notify CSA about the care arrangements and agreements for the children.
Your income is another important consideration in working out the amount of child care to be paid to the primary carer. If either of your incomes and/or care percentage changes, it’s important to let CSA know. It may mean a new application for child support is needed.
If either parent is not a resident of Australia on the day of the application then there are additional considerations. And it’s comforting to know that Australia has reciprocal arrangements with many countries around the world that will enforce your rights to child support.
So how do we make an agreement about child support?
Parents may make a child support agreement and can choose to organise collection themselves or collection by CSA. Parents can make agreements regarding the way in which child support is paid, for example through periodic cash payments, non-cash payments or a lump sum payment (including by way of property settlement).
Here’s some information on making a child support agreement
There are two types of agreements: binding child support agreements and limited child support agreements.
The main difference between them is that parents are not required to obtain legal advice before entering into a limited child support agreement. These limited agreements can also be terminated if you both agree, and if not, by a court order. Also, the amount of child support payable in a limited child support agreement can’t be less than the amount calculated in your child support assessment.
Find out more about limited child support agreements HERE
Find out more about binding child support agreements HERE
Both these agreements must be in writing and signed by both of you and any other person taking a major role in the child support who is part of the agreement.
Applications from non-parent carers
A non-parent carer can apply for an administrative assessment of child support for a child but they must be an eligible carer of the child and are not living with either parent as a partner on a genuine domestic basis and don’t have care jointly with a parent of the child. If this situation applies to you, talk to the staff at the CSA.
Estimate what your child support may be with this CALCULATOR
(You should not rely on an estimate as a guarantee for future income or payment.)
When does child support end?
There are a few scenarios when child support ends:
♦ Normally child support will end after your child has turned 18. It is possible for child support to be extended after 18 years of age if you apply for child support to continue until the end of the school year during which your child turns 18. Additionally, if your child has a physical or intellectual disability, extensions may also be possible.
♦ if your child is adopted by someone else.
♦ If your child marries or starts a de facto relationship.
♦ If neither of you is caring for the Child
♦ If you both restart your relationship.
It’s also important to note that just because a child starts working before 18 that doesn’t mean you automatically stop paying child support. However, if you are in a situation where your child is over 18 and still requires support, you definitely have grounds to appeal any assessed amount if that child is earning money.
What if my child needs help but is over 18?
Generally, older children who live independently and separately from their parents or carers provide for many of their own needs. However, where a person provides substantial financial support to an older child living away from home, the Registrar will generally consider that financial support as an indicator that the person is continuing to provide care for the child.
The Department of Human Services (Child Support) also provides some handy information for all parents (whether married, de facto or same sex) on how the child support assessment works.
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