Raising a child as a single parent is no cheap feat. If you have more than 35% of the care of a child, you are entitled to child support from the other parent. You have options as to how to set up the child support obligation, and you should get legal advice on which method best suits your family.
How are child support payments determined?
Child support payments can be determined in the following ways.
A Binding Child Support Agreement
This is a written agreement between both parents about child support payments. Both parents must sign it and it can only be made if you've had legal advice. You can agree on an amount that is an approximate amount that would be payable under a child support assessment. Payments can be cash or non-cash items, such as school fees or health insurance.
The agreement can be registered with the Child Support Agency. Once it has been registered you can choose whether you would prefer for the child support agency to collect payments, or whether you have a private arrangement between yourself and your spouse.
If you choose to make a Binding Child Support Agreement, you may choose to receive a lump sum payment. If you choose this, you will be required to obtain a Child Support Assessment before you lodge the agreement with the Child Support Agency.
A lump sum payment can be paid in cash, or by the transfer of an asset.
The Child Support Agency will then credit the amount against your spouse’s child support rate each year until the credit runs out. Once the lump sum has been used up, the paying parent will need to pay their regular child support payments. If you are currently receiving welfare payments, you should get specific advice about special restrictions that will apply to you as a recipient of child support.
Child Support Assessment:
If you decide to apply for a Child Support Assessment, you will normally:
- receive child support if your percentage of care of a child is more than your share of the combined income.
- pay child support if your percentage of care of a child is less than your share of the combined income between your spouse and you, or
The exact amount paid is determined by the child support formula. The Child Support Agency calculates the costs of a child, based on research about how much parents spend on children in Australia. They then consider:
- your income and combined income
- how much time you each care for the child, and
- the child’s age.
How long does child support need to be paid for?
If the circumstances of your parenting arrangement do not change, child support is usually paid until the child reaches 18 years of age. However, the obligation to pay can be terminated or varied at an earlier stage.
How to terminate a Binding Child Support Agreement?
A current Agreement can only be ended by you if you make a new binding agreement that either replaces or terminates the current one. If you aren’t able to agree, you can apply for a court order to set aside your agreement. These court applications can be expensive and complicated.
Alternatively, the Child Support Agency can unilaterally end or suspend a child support agreement for a child when:
- the receiving parent under the agreement has less than 35% care of the child, and
- the other parent has at least 35% care of the child
Child Support Assessments
If you do not have a Binding Child Support Agreement, and rely on child support assessments, the assessment will end if:
- the child turns 18 (unless the child is still in secondary education and/or you have applied to extend the assessment);
- the child marries or starts living in a marriage like relationship;
- someone else adopts the child;
- the child dies;
- if you and the child leave the jurisdiction permanently;
- the parent receiving the payment has less than 35% care of the child;
- you decide to replace the assessments with a Child Support Agreement;
- you apply to end the assessments;
- you or your spouse die;
- you and your spouse have been reconciled for 6 months or more;
- both parents stop being residents of Australia; or
- the paying parent stops being a resident of Australia or of a reciprocating jurisdiction.
Can I challenge a child support agreement?
You can object to a Child Support Assessment. This is a formal review process. You can lodge an objection if you think that the Department of Human Services have:
- used incorrect or old information;
- not considered all the facts;
- missed important details; and/or
- not applied the law correctly.
However, you should note that there are decisions that you cannot lodge an objection with the department about. These include who is or isn’t a child’s parent, and the method of collecting payments used by the Child Support Agency (for example, payment arrangement amounts, seizing tax refunds and garnishing bank accounts).
Am I entitled to child support even if I’m not married?
Your eligibility to apply for child support is not dependent upon marital status. Instead, you must show that you and your former partner are the child’s legal parents. You will be considered a legal parent of a child if at least one of the following applies:
- you were married to the other parent when the child was born;
- you’re named on the child’s birth certificate as a parent, (Australian or from a reciprocating jurisdiction);
- you’re named in adoption papers as a parent;
- you’re male and lived with the mother any time between 20 to 44 weeks before the child’s birth;
- a clear statement from a relevant court identifies you as the child’s parent;
- you provide a statutory declaration stating that you are a parent of the child; or
- you’re a parent under the Family Law Act 1975 - this covers artificial conception and surrogacy.
Talk to child lawyers in Sydney & Parramatta about what child support you’re entitled to.
Understanding your rights and obligations under the current Child Support Regime can be tricky. Our child support lawyers in Sydney & Parramatta can help you prove that someone is (or isn’t) a parent, prepare a Child Support Agreement, change an existing child support agreement and with lodging objections of department decisions.