Child Support

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Under the Child Support (Assessment) Act and also at general law, regardless of the time parents spend with their children, they have a legal duty to financially support their children at least until they turn 18 years. The amount of child support payable is based on a statutory formula set out in the child support legislation. This formula takes into account factors including:

  • the age of the child/children;
  • the incomes of both parents;
  • the time the child/ children spends with both parents.

In certain circumstances, this formula assessment may be varied to take into account individual circumstances of parents and children.

The Department of Human Services administers assesses, collects and transfers child support payments.

Can we reach our own agreement about what child support should be paid?

Parties can reach a private agreement between themselves about child support and can have their agreement drawn up as a Child Support Agreement.

There are two different types of Child Support Agreements. The simplest ones can be prepared by parties without lawyers, these are known as 'Limited Child Support Agreements';. The other type of Child Support Agreement, known as a 'Binding Child Support Agreement' is one that needs to be prepared by a lawyer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

There are restrictions on the payment amounts that are allowable, depending on the type of agreement that parties decide to use. The agreement may also affect parties' Centrelink entitlements in some circumstances.

If you are considering having a private agreement about Child Support prepared, obtaining advice from a lawyer highly experienced in family law, is a prudent step to take to ensure that the Child Support Agreement is binding.

How is child support calculated?

Most families who apply, have their child support assessed by the standard administrative formula applied by the Department of Human Services (Child Support). This assessment will determine which parent is required to pay the support and which parent is to receive the payment.

The formula is based on independent research about the costs of raising children.

Parties can also agree on their own arrangements for Child Support that take into account particular costs, such as private education and health insurance, extra-curricular activities and the like. Private agreements or arrangements can be registered with the Department of Human Services (Child Support).

Depending on the type of agreement, parties may need advice and assistance from a family lawyer.

Can the Child Support Assessment be varied?

The administrative formula applied by the agency does not take into account any individual circumstances but you can apply to have an assessment varied.

For this to happen, parties need to apply for reassessment and submit documents to explain why the amount determined using the administrative formula should not apply. There is a range of factors that the Department of Human Services (DHS) (Child Support) will look at when considering if a different amount should be paid.

You can contact the DHS (Child Support) by telephone or review the information on the DHS website to check whether a reassessment may be available to you.

If you disagree with the reassessment determination, then you can apply to DHS (Child Support) for a review of that decision and/or for the Social Security Appeals Tribunal to review the matter. You should thoroughly read the information on the DHS website and/or consider obtaining legal advice before doing so.

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