Introduction to child support

A separation can leave you with feelings of financial distress and uncertainty, more so when you have children dependent on you. If you are a separated parent, you may be eligible to receive child support.

Child support in Australia is assessed by the Child Support Agency (“CSA”).

Child support is available to parents and carers who are caring for a child under the age of 18 years. A party eligible to receive child support can apply to the CSA for an administrative assessment of child support. An application for an administrative assessment can be made either online at www.csa.gov.au or by lodging an application for an assessment by mail, facsimile, at a CSA office, a Centrelink office or a Family Assistance Office.

 

How does the CSA calculate child support?

The CSA applies child support formulas to calculate a child support assessment. An assessment is payable by a liable parent to the eligible parent, until the child turns 18 years. The steps of calculating an assessment can be summarised as follows:

 

The first step is for the CSA to work out the child support income. This comprises a parent’s adjusted taxable income less some allowances such as amounts required for self-support, any other dependent children and any other cases of child support that parent may have.

 

The second step involves working out the combined child support income. That is, adding together each parent’s child support income.

 

The third step involves working out the income percentage. That is, by combining the child support incomes of the parents, each parent’s child support income can be viewed as a percentage.

 

The fourth step involves working out the care percentage. This is based on the number of nights per calendar year that the child lives with each parent.

 

The fifth step then requires a calculation of each parent’s costs percentage, based on their percentage of care. The CSA uses a table to work out this cost percentage.

 

The sixth step is a calculation of each parent’s income support percentage which is worked out by deducting each parent’s costs percentage from their income percentage. The party with a positive percentage is the liable parent and the parent with a negative percentage is entitled to receive child support.

 

Child support is assessed at an annual rate and payable monthly. The liable parent’s obligation to pay child support ends when the child turns 18 years of age.

 

What to do if you are not happy with a CSA decision

If you are not happy with a CSA assessment and believe the assessment is not correct, contact one of our family law solicitors and they can advise you of your rights.

We have had distressed parents contact us to inform us that they are unhappy with the decision made by the CSA, with respect to child support, and wanting to object to a CSA decision. We can offer our assistance by helping you to complete your objection to the CSA. You must make your objection within 28 days of receiving notification of a decision made by the child support agency.

 

Can an eligible parent receive more than a child support assessment?

There are instances where the parents may agree that one parent pay the other parent an amount different to the child support assessed amount and pay other expenses such as health care, private school fees, and extracurricular activities expenses. In these cases those parties can enter into a Child Support Agreement, and register that agreement with the CSA. There are two types of Child Support Agreements. One of our family lawyers can explain the differences to you and recommend to you the one that may be more appropriate for your situation.

Our family lawyers can also draft a Child Support Agreement for you, if you and the other parent agree to enter into an agreement.

 

Can an eligible parent apply to the Court for child support?

Since child support is administered by the CSA which is a government agency, the Courts tends not to get too involved with child support matters. There are limited circumstances however, when a parent can make an application to either the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrate’s Court of Australia for a child support order. Before a parent makes an application for a child support order to the Court we highly recommend that they seek legal advice and assistance.

For more information about child support and the Courts, please contact Family Law specialists Fiona Hoad or Layla Doumit.

 

 

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