Child Support is the payment from one party to another to assist with the costs of a child or children.
Parents have an obligation to financially support their children if they have the means to do so. This applies regardless of whether they spend time with the child; and regardless of whether they were married, de facto, or even if they did not live together. In some rare cases, this obligation may extend to a step-parent.
Separated parents can arrange ongoing financial support for their children by agreement between themselves or apply for assessment through Australia’s Child Support Agency (currently The Department of Human Services, Child Support). Primary carer can make an application to the Agency of a child or children and this can include a non-parent carer.
If your children spend most of their time with you, you will likely be entitled to child support payments. The child support payable varies according to your specific circumstances and is determined and monitored by the Child Support Agency.
Eligibility for Child Support
Generally, child support is payable for all children until they turn 18 years of age or complete their secondary schooling. This includes adopted children, children born from artificial conception or surrogacy and children from same-sex relationships. If a child turns 18 during the year they are completing secondary school, then an application can be made for child support to continue until they complete schooling.
When a parent or a non-parent carer asks the Agency to make a child support assessment, the Registrar needs to be satisfied that the person to be assessed in respect of the costs of the child is a parent of the child.
In some cases, parentage may be challenged through a court which may require DNA testing. These matters can be complex and emotive, and in such cases, we recommend the guidance of an experienced family lawyer.
In some circumstances, child maintenance may be payable for children over 18 years in full-time study or who have a physical or mental disability. Applications for child maintenance or adult-child maintenance are made under the Family Law Act 1975, and any court-ordered payments may be collected through the Agency. The financial and special needs of the child will be taken into consideration as well as a range of other factors in determining whether maintenance is payable.
How much child support am I entitled to?
The amount of child support can vary from time to time due to changes in the financial or personal circumstances of the parents or child.
A complex formula is used to calculate child support payments and the assessment matrix is flexible enough to consider a range of factors such as:
- the number of nights the child spends with each parent/carer;
- the costs of raising children relative to specific age ranges and the capacity for the parents to meet those costs;
- the respective income of each parent;
- each parent’s responsibility for supporting other children;
- the age of the child and other children in the care of each parent;
- the basic living needs of each
An approximate can be determined by using the calculator on the Child Support Agency website.
Can I object to a decision made by the Child Support Agency?
Either parent may object to an administrative assessment which may sometimes not fully consider any special or unusual needs of a child or the circumstances of a parent or carer. Alternatively, a parent or carer’s circumstances may change, or a change in care arrangements may trigger a review. This could be due to the loss of a job or health-related matters. In these cases, a parent or carer may apply to change an assessment.
The Agency conducts its assessment using the parties last filed tax return, which can prove inaccurate in cases where parties’ taxes are not up to date or have complex tax structures. In these cases, the assessment may need to be reviewed.
The parties will be notified in writing of the decision reached. If either party is still unhappy with the decision, an objection may be lodged within 28 days, and then an internal review of the decision will take place within 60 days of the objection being filed. After the objection is considered, there may be further grounds for appeal through a specialist division of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
What if my ex-partner doesn’t pay?
The Child Support Agency has the power to investigate and enforce payment which includes the power to collect the payment from employers, the tax office and social security. It may also prevent people from leaving the country while there are outstanding payments.
These enforcement powers can be helpful in circumstances where parents are hesitant to pay or there is a history of violence.
We can help
Child support issues can be sensitive and difficult to work through, but we can help you find your way through the process and the legislation. Our experienced lawyers can assist you with lodging, reviewing or challenging child support payments. We can also assist you to negotiate alternative Child Support Arrangements with the other parent and record those alternative arrangements in a Binding Child Support Agreement.
If you need any assistance, contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 08 8443 4888 for a free telephone discussion. Alternatively, contact us and book a time for a face-to-face consultation at our Mile End or Norwood offices or over video conference.