Child Support in Australia

Article 25 July 2019

Child Support in Australia

For many families experiencing separation and divorce the mere mention of the words "child support" can send chills down the spine!  Whether or not the parties involved have negotiated an agreement themselves doesn't matter - there have been enough horror stories and media reports to scare anyone, and in some cases make it a difficult topic to raise. 

How Much Child Support Will I Have to Pay or Be Paid?

The aim of child support is to ensure that the children of separated parents receive the financial support that both parents are responsible for providing.   

Generally speaking, there are two main ways for parents to work out what their child support obligations will be, these are:

1. Negotiating the own Child Support Agreement

2. Referring their case for assessment by the Child Support Agency

Negotiating Your Own Child Support Agreement

Child Support Agreements allow separating couples to identify and agree themselves on the amount of child support that should be paid.  They allow parents to be more flexible with their arrangements and take into account additional payments that might cover items such as private school fees, medical bills or health insurance for example.

There are two main types of Child Support Agreements:

i. Limited Child Support Agreements

A limited child support agreement is a written agreement between the two parties that must be signed by both parents.  The amount to be paid should be at least the same as a notional assessment of child support by the Child Support Agency, or more than that figure.

A limited agreement will end if:

• a Court makes different orders regarding child support

• the parents make and sign a new agreement

• the notional assessment of child support made by the CSA changes by more than 15%

• one of the parents provides notice in writing that they wish to end the agreement (after a period of three years).

ii. Binding Child Support Agreements

Binding child support agreements must also be in writing and signed by both parents.  However, when a binding agreement is made both parents must seek independent legal advice before they enter into it.

A binding agreement can stipulate any amount of child support the parties choose to agree upon, and can even include lump sum payments (including the transfer of property).  This form of agreement can only end when a new binding agreement is made, or if a Court makes orders concerning the amount of child support payable.  

We recommend that before you sign any written agreement, whether it has been suggested by you or your ex-partner, or prepared by your ex-partner’s solicitor, you should always seek legal advice about its advantages and disadvantages.

Child Support Agency Assessments

Given the emotive nature of child support, and the fact that for many couples there may be an ongoing dispute or issue with trust, many parents choose to refer their child support arrangements to the Child Support Agency (CSA).  This involves an application for a formal child support assessment, which can be made to the CSA by either the parent with whom the child lives, or the 'non-custodial' parent.

When an application is made, the CSA calculates the amount payable using a specified formula, and there is an obligation for the paying parent to pay that amount to the other parent.  The CSA can also collect the money directly through the paying parent's salary or wages if this is the most appropriate way, or if there is any concern over payment.

The First Steps

When parents separate, it is always best to speak to a lawyer about your rights and your obligations - especially when it comes to supporting your children.  For more information on child support, contact our experienced family lawyer, Maidei Kutsanzira on ph: 02 8566 2400.