Child Support / Child Maintenance

The aftermath of a relationship breakdown can be difficult. Being properly advised of your entitlement to child support and child maintenance can help bring peace of mind in the short-term while you focus on your long-term plans.

Knowing your entitlement to child support and how your parenting arrangements, financial resources, property assets, and income fit together to affect your entitlements can make a world of difference to your quality of life as you settle into the post-relationship phase.

There are a few ways you can deal with child support with your former partner.

Child Support Assessment or Child Support Agreement?

  1. The most common way of dealing with child support is to make an application for a child support assessment to the Child Support Agency.
  2. If you wish to deal with child support in a way that is different from the government scheme for child support, then you also have the option of entering into a Child Support Agreement. There are two types of agreement you can make:

a. A Limited Child Support Agreement is an agreement between you and your former partner about child support arrangements. It can be terminated by either parent after 3 years and can also be terminated if a parents income deviates by more than 15% from their ordinary child support assessment.

b. A Binding Child Support Agreement is an agreement between you and your former partner and includes details about how much child support will be payable, and who will pay child support. A Binding Child Support Agreement must be considered very carefully because:

i. It cannot be terminated at all, unless the other parent agrees, or if a terminating event occurs (most commonly a child turning eighteen); and

ii. It does not take into account any future change in circumstances that could occur – as a result you could end up with problems down the track.

For these reasons, it is only possible to enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement after both parents have obtained independent legal advice. Each agreement will have a certificate of independent legal advice which will be attached and signed by your lawyer.

Our experienced Family Lawyers can provide you with advice on an existing Binding Child Support Agreement as well as advice about whether a Binding Child Support Agreement might be right for you.

How do I get child support?

The first step to getting child support is to call the Child Support Agency, which is operated by the Department of Human Services.

(https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/child-support)

Child Support is calculated using a formula including the amount of time the child or children spend with each parent and the income of each parent.

What do I do if I believe my child support assessment is incorrect?

There are many cases where, after a child support assessment, you will be left gobsmacked at the tiny amount of child support your partner has been ordered to pay. This often occurs because a child support assessment is usually based on tax returns lodged by the other parent.

The most common scenario where one parent’s taxable income may deviate significantly from their actual income is when one parent is self-employed. In this scenario, a great approach will be to make what is commonly referred to as a “Departure Application” – so named because it departs from the ordinary assessment of child support and substitutes a new assessment, taking into account factors which will not have been picked up when relying strictly on the tax-return assessment.

Making a Departure Application can be complicated and will need to be supported by evidence. Our experienced Family Lawyers can provide advice and assistance in making a Departure Application, including helping you track down relevant documents which might show that you partner is earning more than they are telling the tax man.

Child Maintenance

In addition to Child Support, you or your children may also be entitled to make an application for Child Maintenance – particularly if a child is now over eighteen. In the modern world, children no longer obtain a trade at 16, leave home at 18, and marry at 21. Many children are studying at university well into their twenties (sometimes thirties!) and the Family Law has evolved to recognise this change in our way of life.

If your child is studying or has another reason why they need support – such as having a disability – then you may be entitled to apply for Adult Child Maintenance. The experienced lawyers at DCM Lawyers can provide cost-effective advice and representation in pursuing an application for child maintenance.