Child support is a complicated issue families deal with after a relationship break-down, and it is important that all parties understand their rights and obligations.
Under Australian law all parents must contribute to the financial support of their children, whether or not they are living or even spending any time with their children. Whether you and the other parent were married, living in a de facto relationship or never lived together, both of you must contribute to the costs of raising your child or children. The term ‘parents’ also includes two same-sex partners with children born through artificial insemination, and adoptive parents.
Non-parent carers can also claim child support. This could include grandparents and other family members, as well as other legal guardians. A non-parent carer must care for the child 35% of the time to make a claim, and cannot be in a domestic relationship with either of the child’s parents.
Working out child support payments
The amount of support differs from case to case and is determined by a number of factors, but it is principally determined by each parent’s income and the number of nights the child/ren spend in the care of each parent. A parent will need to care for the child/ren at least 35% of the time (five or more days a fortnight on average) to be eligible for a support payment.
The formula used to work out payments is part of Australian law. You can read more about the steps involved in determining payments, and read about the different levels of care and different income brackets here.
A child support lawyer can offer advice to opt out of the government system and establish a child support agreement
A child support lawyer can help you understand your rights and obligations, and help you negotiate fair child support arrangements. Child support agreements set out the amount, frequency and method of payment of child support payments. There are two types of child support agreements: limited and binding. While only binding child support agreements legally require both parents to obtain legal advice before signing, is a good idea to speak to a lawyer before creating any of these documents as they can have serious and long-term financial repercussions.
A limited agreement is generally a short-term agreement that does not require both parties to obtain legal advice (although it is usually a good idea to).
Child support agreements can override the amount assessed by the child support agency (Department of Human Services – Child Support) that calculates minimum payments. They can also allow for the child support payment amount to be less than calculated by the agency.
Child support agreements can be re-assessed over time, and can be affected by things such as a change of income or change of care arrangements.
Both parents have an obligation to financially support their children until they are at least 18 years of age. This obligation does not change if one, or both, parents find new partners. Parents may be obliged to continue paying child support even after a child is 18 in circumstances such as the child still being at school or participating in tertiary education, or if they have a disability.