Any parent may be liable to pay child support to another person, regardless of whether they were married, in a de facto relationship, never lived together or had a relationship, or are of the same sex as that other person.
The payment of child support by one person to another is usually agreed in private between the parties.
Either or both parties may also request the Child Support Agency (CSA) to calculate the minimum amount of child support which is payable by law.
The CSA is the Commonwealth government agency which is responsible for the assessment, administration and collection of child support.
The CSA uses mathematical formulae to determine if and how much child support must be paid by one parent to another. The amount which is ultimately payable to the recipient is referred to as the child support assessment.
The child support assessment is determined by reference to such factors as the number of children involved, the parents’ income, the age of the children, and the level of care each parent provides for the children (usually the number of nights that each child stays with each parent).
The CSA will only issue a child support assessment if the proposed recipient can positively establish that the paying parent is a biological parent, adoptive parent, or former same sex partner of the recipient.
Once the CSA makes a child support assessment (and/or the parties agree in private as to how much will be paid), parties usually arrange between one another for regular payments to be made to the recipient party directly. The recipient may also ask the CSA to collect the payments on her or his behalf.
A child support assessment may be varied at a later stage to reflect changed circumstances, such as when the income of the parties changes, upon the birth of a new child, or if the time that the parents spend with their child changes.
A party may also make an application to the CSA to have the child support assessment changed due to special circumstances, taking into account such factors as:
- The cost of spending time with the child when the parties live a long distance apart
- The costs of caring for the child to take account of extraordinary expenses such as medical and dental costs
- The costs of educating the child where, for example, the parents agree for the child to attend a non-government school
- The assessment does not properly reflect one or both parents’ capacity to pay child support in some other way.
If a person is not satisfied with the outcome of a child support assessment, they may also apply for an independent administrative review of the CSA’s calculations or its determination about a relevant assessment factor.
Parents may also enter into private agreements called ‘child support agreements’. These are written documents which take account of such factors as the amount, frequency and method of child support payments that will be made. Child support agreements can be prepared in a format which makes them binding on the parties and enforceable in a court.
We are able to advise and assist our clients in relation to any issue concerning child support, including in relation to the preparation of child support agreements and also representing them in administrative reviews of their child support assessments made by the CSA.