What you need to know about child support

What is child support?

The child support scheme in Australia aims to ensure that children receive financial support from both parents, even though those parents are separated or were not a couple in the first place. There is a payer (the person who pays) and a payee (the person who receives the money to pay for the child’s expenses. 

Who administers it in Australia?

 Services Australia administer the scheme. The government agency assists parents to apply for an assessment and then facilitates and enforces the collection of the funds from the payer to the payee.

How is child support calculated?

Child support is broadly based on the taxable income of each party, the age of the child or children and the amount of care each party has of the child or children.

What are the options for payment?  

Services Australia encourage parties to enter into “private collect” arrangements. This means the payer pays the payee direct, without the intervention or assistance of Services Australia.

Sometimes this doesn’t work, for a variety of reasons. In that case, the payee can ask Services Australia to collect the funds on their behalf and distribute it.

If a payer is reluctant to pay or accrues a debt, Services Australia has the power to garnishee wages, intercept tax refunds and garnishee the contents of bank accounts.

Can I agree something other than the assessed amount?

 The answer is yes, but that is caveated. Sometimes, people will decide not to go through Services Australia for an assessment and will make their own private arrangements. That can be documents via either a Limited Child Support Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement. There are key differences between the two types and advice should be obtained from a family lawyer before agreeing to anything.

Depending on the parties circumstances, Centrelink may need to approve any agreement reached.

Any child support amount received can have an impact on the payee’s Centrelink benefits, depending on the type of benefits.

When does child support end?

As a general rule, child support payments end when a child turns 18 if they are not otherwise financially independent.  However, an application may be made to extend it to the end of year 12 if the child turns 18 before completing high school. The application needs to be made before the child’s 18th birthday.

If financial assistance is sought for a child once they are over 18 years of age and entering tertiary education (for example), either the “child” or the carer parent can apply to the Family Court  for Adult Child Maintenance. The adult child maintenance sought can also be if the child has a disability or if they suffer from a serious medical condition.  Services Australia can administer such Court Orders but cannot make them.    

And finally…

Child support can be a tricky aspect of a separation and it is important to know as much as possible given the payments are generally in place until a child turns 18 years of age. A family lawyer can help you with detailed information and advice which is pertinent to your unique circumstances. 

Please note that this article is intended as general information only and does not constitute legal advice. 

If you would like to talk to a caring and highly experienced child support lawyer in Perth, please get in touch with West Family Lawyers or phone them on 08 9380 9111.

Natalie Dimmock

Natalie has worked in family law for 18 years, with skills and qualifications in law, mediation, psychology, management, and company directorship.

Natalie is equally comfortable at mediation negotiating a settlement and in the Family Court advocating for clients. She has experience in all areas of family law, including child support, financial settlements, and parenting issues. She is part of a small team of trusted family lawyers in Perth practising in the Family Court of Western Australia.

Find out more about Natalie here.

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