Child support is a payment made by one or both parents to the other to help with the cost of looking after the children. In some situations, it may be paid by one or both parents to another person who is looking after the children.
A child support agreement can provide for periodic amounts (regular amounts payable on a regular basis) to be paid to the other parent or non-parent carer.
These may be paid directly to the other parent or non-parent carer, to their bank account, or to a third party acting as the agent of the payee, such as a solicitor or trustee.
Periodic child support can be adjusted for the costs of living by either the child support inflation factor or the Consumer Price Index or another adjustment factor identified by the child support agreement.
Non-periodic payment provisions
Where a child support agreement provides for child support to be paid otherwise than in the form of periodic amounts it may state that the annual rate of child support payable under the administrative assessment is to be reduced by a specified amount or percentage (up to 100%), which represents the annual value of the child support payable under the agreement.
Example: Shane agrees to pay school fees for Cindy of $5,000 per year. The fees are payable to Summer Heights High. Sharon’s annual rate of child support is to be reduced by $2,500.
If the child support agreement does not specify how the amounts will reduce the child support payable, then they are not amounts under the non-periodic payment provisions in the CSA Act and will not reduce the annual rate of child support payable under the administrative assessment.
Lump sum payment provisions
Where a child support agreement provides for child support to be paid in the form of a lump sum:
- it must be a binding agreement
- it must state the lump sum payment is to be credited against the amount payable under the administrative assessment
- there must be an administrative assessment in force prior to the application for acceptance being made
- the amount of the lump sum must equal or exceed the current annual rate of the administrative assessment
- the lump sum will be credited at the rate of 100% of the child support payable (unless the agreement specifies a lesser percentage).
The lump sum payment is credited against the payer’s liability under Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, rather than reducing the annual rate of child support payable under an administrative assessment. As at 1 July each year, the remaining lump sum credit is indexed in accordance with changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Other payments & benefits
A child support agreement may include provision for child support to be provided other than in the form of periodic amounts, but not specify how that payment is to reduce the child support payable.
An agreement may also include a provision for child support other than in the form of monetary payment, for example, the provision of goods or services.
If the agreement does specify the provision of goods, services, other payments or benefits then those arrangements will not have any effect on the child support assessment. The goods, services, payments or benefits conferred under the provision of the agreement will be in addition to any administrative assessment.
The additional goods, services, payments or benefits cannot be enforced or collected by the Registrar.
Where both parties agree on how much support is to be paid and how, they can enter into a written agreement to that effect. The agreement is then registered with the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, who can collect and distribute payments as per the agreement.
It is important to obtain independent legal advice before entering into a Child Support Agreement. Commonwealth child support laws are designed to ensure the interests and wellbeing of the child are met while balancing the capacity of parents to support their child. It is important that you consider all of your options carefully and obtain accurate legal advice about which scenario is best for you.
The type of child support arrangement you enter into will depend mainly on your financial circumstances, but also on how well both parties are able to negotiate the terms of child support.
Our Child Support Lawyers can help you achieve the best possible arrangements that benefit your child’s welfare.
An assessment is the most common type of support arrangement and involves DHS assessing the contributions to be made by both parties according to a set formula, which is set out in legislation. The formula takes into account both parties’ income and the amount of time each party cares for the child and then calculates the amount each party owes to each other. DHS will then collect and distribute payments to the parties. Assessments are automatically reviewed and reassessed by DHS after a set period of time, not usually more than 15 months.
If you disagree with a child support assessment you have 28 days to notify CSA that you are objecting to a decision. The 28 days starts from the day you get the decision letter.
Objections can be raised where you believe CSA have:
- used wrong or old information
- not considered all the facts
- missed important details
- not applied the law correctly.
- You can’t object to decisions regarding:
- who is or isn’t a child’s parent – only a court can do this;
- most things to do with collecting payments – this includes payment arrangement amounts, intercepting tax refunds and garnishing bank accounts;
- changing a departure prohibition order – you can only appeal to a court; and
- refusing a departure authorisation certificate – the Administrative Appeals Tribunal can review these.
Once the objection is received, CSA will review and consider your objection within 60 days. If they uphold their decision and you still disagree, you can make an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to review it.
An application can be made to the Family Court for support where the child in question is over 18 (an application for ‘child maintenance’) or where the child was born before 1 October 1989. Any parent or non-parent carer who cares for a child at least 35% of the time (‘time’ being the 12 month period from the dates the assessment commences) may apply for a child support assessment.