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Child Support: the basics

The parents of a child (or children) have a legal obligation to provide financial support for
that child. Child support is a complex area of law, and it can be tricky to navigate.

For parties that are experiencing, or have experienced, a family law separation it can be
intimidating to try and work out an appropriate arrangement for child support with the other
party without first knowing the basics.

What is child support?

Child support refers to financial support provided by one party to another to meet the
needs and requirements of a child or children.

When do I have to pay child support?

A parent will be liable to pay child support if they are:

  • A parent of a child, whether that be biological, adoptive or with the assistance of
    reproductive technology; and
  • A resident of Australia, or a resident in a prescribed overseas jurisdiction.

Types of child support

There are generally 3 ways to go about a child support agreement:

  1. By an informal private agreement between two parties. A private agreement may
    include the frequency and amount of payments, and what those payments will
    cover.
  2. Through a Binding Child Support Agreement. A Binding Child Support Agreement
    is similar to a private agreement, however the agreement is formalised in a legal
    document.
  3. Through Services Australia (Child Support).

How does Services Australia calculate child support?

If one party makes an application through the child support agency, Services Australia will
look into a number of factors in calculating how much child support should be paid,
including but not limited to:

  1. The number of children each parent has;
  2. The incomes of each parent; and
  3. How much time each parent has with the children.

Services Australia have an online child support care calculator which provides an estimate
as to how much child support may be payable.

What does child support cover?

The purpose of child support is to assist in meeting the needs of a child or children and is
intended to cover costs such as:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • School costs
  • Medical costs; and
  • Extracurricular activities.

Binding Child Support Agreement

While you are able to have an informal private agreement for child support, it is strongly
recommended to have that agreement formalised into a Binding Child Support Agreement.
This will provide a level of certainty for both parties.

A Binding Child Support Agreement can usuallydetail any agreement that the parties have
reached in relation to periodic payments (such as weekly payments), non -periodic
payments (such as extracurricular fees) or a combination of both. For example, an
agreement could be reached for periodic child support to be paid through Services
Australia on a monthly basis, in addition to school fees and health insurance, which could
be covered under a Binding Child Support Agreement.

If you are looking to enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement, it is important to
consider what works for your family and your individual circumstances and seek
independent legal advice.

How is child support paid?

If the parents have come to an informal private agreement or have entered into a Binding
Child Support Agreement, they can agree on the amount, frequencyand how child support
is paid.

Where the parents have made an application to Services Australia, the child support
agency can collect and transfer payment to the receiving parent.

A party may also agree to receive a lump sum payment of child support through a family
law property settlement. This might allow that party to have access to an immediate source
of funds, and may also reduce the other’s party’s future child support obligations to
balance out this payment.

Effect on Centrelink

It is important to note that child support payments can have an impact on the Centrelink
payments being received by a party. For example, a party could be overpaid or underpaid
child support which then affects the payment that that party is entitled to receive from
Centrelink.

It is strongly recommended that parties to any child support agreement obtain independent
financial advice.

Changing child support

If you do not agree with the amount you are paying, or are being paid, you can either apply
to Services Australia for a change of assessment, or you can apply to the Federal Circuit
and Family Court of Australia for a child support departure order.

It is important to note that child support is a complex area of law. If you need help with
child support, it is always best to speak to an appropriately qualified family lawyer.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice with a family
law matter, please contact our Intake team on (03) 9364 7400 or email us at
reception@hartleyslawyers.com.au.

This article is intended to provide general information only and is limited to the Victorian
jurisdiction only. You should obtain professional advice before you undertake any course
of action

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