Child Support

If you're seeking advice from a family lawyer, it's likely that you are going through a challenging and stressful life event. If children are involved, its imperative that the matter is handled with extreme care and professionalism.

Child Support

Parents have a duty to support their children financially after separation, regardless of who the children live with. Parents can manage this between themselves via a private arrangement or they can apply for a child support assessment through the Child Support Agency (the Agency).

In an ideal world, a child would receive the same overall percentage of parental income that the child would have received if the parents were still living together. In practice, if a parent provides a larger percentage of care than their share of the total income, they’ll generally receive child support payments from the other parent. If a parent provides a smaller percentage of care than their share of the income, they’ll generally pay child support to the other parent.

Child Support is generally determined by an administrative assessment via the Agency. The assessment is triggered upon the application by one party and the liability to pay arises when that application is made. The assessment is made by way of a complex formula set out in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

A good first step is to obtain an approximation of the amount of child support you could expect to receive (or pay) from Agency using their online calculator. If you choose to, you can lodge an application for assessment with the Agency to manage the payment of child support that it determines is appropriate based on their formula.

Alternatively, child support can be arranged between the parents by way of a private, binding agreement, referred to as a Binding Child Support Agreement, which essentially “cuts-out” the involvement of the Agency.

Generally speaking, a Binding Child Support Agreement will make provision for the payment of child support (called a periodic payment) and payment of other expenses incurred in raising a child (called a non-periodic payment). Those non-periodic payments usually relate to payment of, or contribution towards, medical expenses, private health insurance, school fees and other school expenses like uniforms, sporting registration fees and other extra-curricular activities and private tuition.

You will need to bear in mind that Binding Child Support Agreements only take into account your circumstances at that time. What happens if, after the Agreement is made, your former partner starts earning substantially more money or reduces his or her hours of work to part-time? What if one of you loses your job? What if he or she re-partners and has another child? Is their new partners income or assets relevant? It is thus critically important that the agreement properly reflects the intentions of the parties and ties off the possible risk that a change in personal circumstances may mean.

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