Family Law – Child Support
What is Child Support?
Child Support is the system within Australia to provide for the financial support of children if they have parents who are separated.
Child Support is administered largely as a bureaucratic system, rather than a Court based system. It is designed to ensure that children are financially supported by both of their parents, regardless of how much time they might spend with either of their parents.
It is administered by the Child Support Agency, and there are strong links between Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office and the Child Support Agency.
The Agency has an online calculator so you can get an idea of what the child support payments might be, however the actual assessment could be different.
How do we get child support underway?
Either parent can contact the Child Support Agency and make an application. Any parent who receives a benefit from Centrelink will be required to do this.
The Agency will prepare their calculations (called an Assessment) based on your taxable income, the other party’s taxable income and the number of nights that each of you have the children in your care.
When the assessment issues you can agree to do private collection (where one parent simply makes payments to the other parent’s bank account) or agency collection (where the CSA collects the payments).
Can we do a private Child Support Agreement?
You can agree between yourselves about what is going to be paid and received as child support. Some couples agree on an amount to be paid and other couples maintain a joint account for child related expenses, where they each contribute to that account and those expenses. However, this is an informal agreement and won’t be legally binding.
Also, Centrelink will make their calculations as if the amount on the Assessment is being paid and received. This means, that for some families, even if they want to, they cannot afford to come to a private arrangement.
There are two types of Child Support Agreements that are legally binding. One is a Limited Child Support Agreement, which is legally binding for 3 years and a Binding Child Support Agreement, which is intended to be legally binding until the child turn 18.
A private Child Support Agreement is something that you should always get detailed and specific legal advice about. The implications can be significant for both the parent who pays child support and the person who receives child support.