In Australia, child support is the payment of money by one parent to another parent (can also be a guardian or care-taker) for the benefit of the child.
When the parents of a child have separated or divorced, a decision an arrangement must promptly be made in the best interest of the welfare of the child and how this child’s expenses must be paid. Expenses can include school fees, daily living expenses and medical bills.
In Australia, the first thing a parent must do is apply for a child support assessment. Prior to this however, it is common to do personal calculations first to see clearly who is to owe money and who is to receive money between the parents.
How Does Child Support Work and How Much Should I Pay?
The Australian Child Support System makes an assessment by applying a formula set down by Australian law. This can often be quite complex, so it is important the Child Support Agency (CSA) is contacted for the specific information required per each case – as well as the entitlements and liabilities involved.
To settle the child support amount that must be paid, the CSA formula takes into consideration the financial circumstances and the amount of time the children spend with each parent.
The formula aims to outline the financial impact set on each parent when spending time with the children.
The CSA assessment formula focuses on:
1. The costs of raising children
2. The incomes of both parents (equal consideration)
3. The time a child spends with each parent
The Child Support amount is established after the following. The Child Support Agency issues an administrative assessment setting out which parent pays the other parent a certain amount and another calculation stating the balance owing by one parent.
It is common for the Child Support Agency to act as the middleman between the financial transactions so the parents don’t have to manage it themselves. If this arrangement is not made, private direct transactions between the parents are allowed.
In special circumstances a private Child Support Agreement can be made which replaces an ‘administrative assessment.’
It is important that both parents are truthful during their assessment. The Child Support Agency has the authority to access private financial records including tax returns and transfer funds. The Child Support Agency also has the authority to enforce collection, commonly through intercepting tax refunds and forced salary sacrifice after contacting the employer of a parent. A child support calculator can often be useful too to calculate payments.
Parents must keep the Child Support Agency informed of any of the following circumstances changes:
1. the number of dependent children
2. change of income
3. change in care arrangements of the children
4. any present or foreseeable events that might effect the current arrangement
What If I Am Unhappy with my Child Support Assessment?
If you are unhappy with your child support arrangement, a parent can take an objection to the courts. Firstly, a parent must lodge an objection with Australian Child Support Registrar for a change in the assessment within 28 days of the assessment.
A parent can also apply to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) for a review, if the Child Support Registrar rejects their objection.
If there is an issue concerning the true mother or father of the child, and that the Child Support Agency has not assessed the true parent of the child – a different approach must be taken. In this case, an application must be lodged with the Court to follow with DNA testing as stated in the Family Law Act.
For more information please visit the Child Support Agency website at www.csa.gov.au
If you are looking for a family lawyer to provide you legal advice on your next steps, it is best advised to consult in a family specialist lawyer.