02 Dec Child Support Q&A
Clients will often ask us ‘How much Child Support am I entitled to?’ or ‘How much Child Support should I be paying to my ex?’
How much Child Support you are entitled to receive, or you are required to pay, will depend upon your circumstances. The amount you are assessed to pay or be paid, will be as determined by the Child Support Agency (the ‘CSA”), if and when one parent makes an Application for Child Support.
The CSA apply a basic 8 step formula which takes into consideration, each of the parent’s income, whether they have other dependent children and other Child Support assessments, the children’s costs of living and the level of care that they provide each of the children.
To obtain an estimate of the amount your Child Support, you can access the online ‘Child support estimator’ that is available through the ‘Services Australia’ website as per the following link; https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/topics/online-estimators/28456#a4 .
It is common for parents to approach each other and have the discussion about what regular contribution they will make towards the costs of raising the children. You can ask them if they will start paying Child Support and specify how much you need. You can negotiate an agreed amount of Child Support with the other parent, without being bound by the estimated amount through the CSA.
If you cannot come to an agreement about the amount of Child Support to be paid, or one parent
is not agreeing to pay, you can make an Application to the CSA requesting that they make an assessment of your Child Support.
Once you receive the assessment from the CSA, you can ask the other parent to start paying the amount. If they still refuse to pay that amount, you can ask the CSA to collect your child support from the other parent, on your behalf, by nominating that the CSA collect the child support amounts.
Can I make an application to increase or decrease my assessed child-support amount?
Yes, either parent is entitled to make an application with the Child Support Agency to seek a review of the child support assessment.
To do so, either parent will need to fill out an ‘Application for Change your Assessment – Special Circumstances form’. You will need to satisfy to the CSA that you meet one of ten different reasons (as set out in the form). Those reasons, largely relate to the following:
• The costs of raising the children, i.e. the children’s costs are higher because they have special needs; or ‘the children’s costs are higher because of the high costs of spending time with them’, or ‘the children’s costs are higher because of the costs for how the children are educated or being trained’; OR
• A party has significant expenses that reduces their capacity to support the children; OR
• The assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity of one of the parents (for example if one parent’s income is much higher than the assessment or for example if your income is lower than the amount in the assessment); OR
• The assessment is unfair because of the child’s income, earning capacity, property or financial resources; OR
• The assessment is unfair because one parent has made payments to the other parent that should be taken into consideration.
What is the process for reviewing an Assessment?
One party needs to complete and lodge the Application form with the Agency, together with documents in support of the ‘Application for Change your Assessment – Special Circumstances form’ with the CSA. The CSA will send a copy of the Application form to the other parent.
The Agency will require the other parent to do a Response form, with their documents in support of their Response, within a prescribed timeframe.
The Child Support Officer will see if they can resolve the Application between the parties. If they cannot resolve it, they will then make a formal decision. There is also an appeal process involved if you do not agree with the decision. Whilst the CSA rarely involves using solicitors, you should consider obtaining legal advice before filling out an Application form or a Response form as it can have significant consequences for you.
Do we have to stick to the Child Support assessment if we have our own agreement?
No, parties are able to come to an agreement about Child Support between themselves without the need to go through the CSA. They can come to an agreement to amounts of child support that differ from the amount contained in the assessment.
If parties do come to an agreement, they can document their agreement in a legally binding Child Support Agreement. The Agreement can be registered with the CSA but needs to be in a form accepted by them. You should consider obtaining legal advice before entering into formal Child Support Agreements.
It is often the case that parents might want to pay an amount of Child Support plus make a contribution to the costs of raising children, recognising that the costs of raising the children are often significant. For example, one parent may want to pay half of or all of the costs of the children’s private school fees or half of the costs of the children’s significant medical expenses or expensive day care costs.
The amount of Child Support that you can pay will depend upon your circumstances. It will also be weighed up against your ex-partner’s income and your children’s needs and expenses. The CSA assesses the minimum amount of Child Support that is required to be paid by one parent to the other.
If one parent is refusing to pay Child Support, it is up to the other parent to contact the CSA and request that they collect Child Support from the other parent. The Agency will not do this unless the parents have requested collection by the Agency.
Parents who are in receipt of government benefits are required by the Government to make an application for child support to the Agency, if they are not already receiving Child Support from the other parent. You need to be aware that if you agree to receive less than the full amount of assessed child support that it can potentially reduce your government benefits you would normally be entitled to.
How is Child Support taken into consideration with my Property Settlement?
When negotiating a Property Settlement, a party should take into consideration their future commitments to pay child support or their future expectation of child support.
Parents may enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement at the same time as entering into a property settlement for a number of various reasons, including the benefit of having certainty as to the extent of their future child support obligations.
You should consider what your future Child Support would be, regardless of whether you are the payer or the payee, so you can budget and make the best financial decisions moving forward.
Do you have questions regarding your separation and Child Support? Please contact Solari and Stock Miranda on 8525 2700 to make an appointment with one of our experienced Family Law team or click here to request an appointment.