Child Support and Child Maintenance
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.
Child Support Agreement
Where both parties agree on how much child 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 Human Services (Child Support) (DHS) (also known as the Child Support Agency), who can collect and distribute payments as per the agreement.
Child Support Assessment
An assessment is the most common type of child 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.
Court Ordered Child Support
An application can be made to the Family Court for child 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.