The Child Support Agency and Centrelink are now part of the Department of Human Services, which deals with child support assessments and payments and other family payments such as family tax benefit and child care benefits and rebates.
Information about child support services provided by the Department of Human Services, including how to make an application for an assessment and a child support payment calculator, is available online at www.humanservices.gov.au.
Child support is payable for children who are under the age of 18 years of age (however there are some exceptions for when children are over the age of 18 years of age).
The first step is to make sure that you and your former spouse or partner have reached agreement about where your children will live and how much time they will spend in your care because one of the factors used to calculate the amount of child support payable is the number of nights the children spend in each parent’s care.
If you and your former spouse or partner haven’t reached any agreement about parenting arrangements, you should get some legal advice and assistance to negotiate parenting orders and to ensure whatever arrangement is, finally, agreed is in your children’s best interests.
Once parenting arrangements are agreed, and you know how many nights your children will spend in your care, the amount of child support payable can be calculated.
There are two different ways of providing child support.
The most common way is to ask for a child support assessment from the Department of Human Services (still commonly referred to as the Child Support Agency) to assess how much child support you should pay your former spouse. The amount will be calculated based on the costs of caring for children, your respective incomes and the number of nights your children spend in your care (i.e. the percentage of care).
Once an assessment has been made of the amount of child support payable, you can enter into a private payment arrangement with your former spouse or partner, which means you pay the child support directly to them. Alternatively, Child Support can collect it from you and pay it to on your behalf.
If circumstances change, such as your income changes, or the amount of time the children live with you increases or decreases, you can ask for a new assessment for child support.
An alternative way of providing child support is to enter into a child support agreement.
Child Support Agreements are used when parents enter into an agreement for the payment of child support rather than relying on the assessment prepared by the Child Support Agency. Agreements can include payments to be made for specific expenses such as school fees and health insurance and can be payments made directly to the other parent or the school (for example).
There are two different kinds of child support agreements, limited child support agreements, and binding child support agreements.
Limited child support agreements must be in writing and signed by both parties to the agreement but there is no requirement for independent legal advice before the agreement is made.
A limited child support agreement operates for up to three years before a new agreement needs to be entered into.
There are formal requirements for a child support agreement to be binding, including the parties must have each received independent legal advice from a lawyer, before signing the agreement, about the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement and the effect of the agreement. The lawyer providing the advice must also sign a certificate stating they have provided the advice. The certificate forms part of the agreement.
A binding child support agreement can only end by a termination agreement in writing; a new child support agreement or by a court order.
For advice about your particular circumstances, get in touch with Megan Sweetlove for a confidential discussion at firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 8274 3848.
** DISCLAIMER: This information in this publication is not intended to be legal advice. Information provided on in this publication is for the purpose of providing general information only in relation to Family Law. The information provided is current at the time it is produced. You should not rely on the general information contained in this publication as legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice regarding your own specific circumstances.