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What is child support?

When parents separate, in some instances, it is necessary for one parent to assist the other financially to ensure that the needs of the children are being met. This is referred to as Child Support.

To assess who is required to pay how much, there is a formula applied to you and the other parent. The formula includes your current income, the other parent’s income, how many dependents you have and how many nights in each fortnight the children are in your care. Generally, if you have a higher income and spend less time with your children than the other parent, you will likely have to pay a higher percentage of Child Support to provide for the needs of the children while in the other parent’s care.

 

Can we draft our own child support agreement?

 

If you want to enter a child support agreement with the other parent without going through the Child Support Agency, you can do so provided you both agree. If you want the agreement to be enforceable you will need to enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement (BCSA) or a Limited Child Support Agreement (LCSA).

To enter into a BCSA you will need to obtain independent legal advice, as the BCSA contains a certificate stating that, in accordance with the Act, the parties have sought independent legal advice regarding the agreement. This certificate will need to be signed by your lawyers.

To enter into a LCSA you do not need to obtain legal advice, however, this agreement is only in place for up to 3 years and thereafter the assessment will revert to the usual assessment. For this agreement to be valid you must be paying or receiving an amount at least in line with the usual assessment if not greater.

 

What is included in the assessment?

 

The child support paid is designed to contribute to the costs of all the children’s expenses and  including any school fees, uniforms, school excursions, extra-curricular activities, food, medications as well as day to day costs.

Should your children also have high-cost expenses, such as special needs education, medical costs and/or equipment, or attend a private school previously agreed between the parties, the agency may consider additional contributions by using the path of a ‘special circumstances’ application.

Alternatively, if you have not previously agreed to pay for private school and/or special needs school and want to have those costs form part of the assessment, you can apply to the court to make a departure order from the administrative assessment. To determine whether these costs should form part of the Child Support assessment, the registrar will take into account factors such as the degree to which the children’s life will be affected if they cannot attend private school.

In either case, it is the responsibility of the parent seeking to receive the payment to allocate the funds to the needs of the children. If you are looking to make decisions around child support, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free initial consultation.