18th November 2020
Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, the subject of child support is often a polarising issue among recently separated or divorcing parents.
In Australia, both parents must financially support their children after separation or divorce. But child support law is complex, and each scenario is unique.
If you're working through separation or divorce in Queensland, Australia, you're probably wondering how child support will affect you.
Keep reading for a straightforward guide to further your understanding.
Upon separating, one or both parents must make child support payments to the other to help cover the costs of caring for their child. In some situations, child support may be paid by one or both parents to someone else who is raising the children.
To determine child support payments, parents can agree on an arrangement, or they can apply for an administrative assessment through Services Australia.
In most cases, child support continues until a child turns 18. In certain situations, it may be stopped, including:
It's also possible that child support payments will extend past the child's 18th birthday because they are completing secondary or tertiary education, or have a mental or physical disability.
Services Australia uses a formula to determine how much child support you should pay or receive. The assessment considers factors such as:
If you're curious, Services Australia has an online calculator to help you work out child support payments using their basic formula. When looking to understand your responsibilities under Family Law in a divorce or separation, this calculator is a good starting point.
The child support amount may change depending on how much time the child is in each parent's care. Parents who never see their child are still bound to support them.
When calculating child support payments, Services Australia also takes into account any other relevant dependent children.
They define a relevant dependent child as:
As child support payments are calculated, children from the first and following families are treated the same.
Life happens, and situations change, and child support assessments can be varied to reflect these changes, if necessary.
If you go through any significant life changes, you'll need to notify Services Australia to make sure your assessment is accurate.
Qualifying changes include:
You have two options for child support collection.
First, you can choose to enter into a private arrangement with the other parent and collect the money privately between you. Depending on your unique circumstances, this informal option may better suit your relationship with the other parent.
It's essential to recognise that, with this option, the receiving parent personally responsible for collecting and enforcing payment. It's more difficult to recover payments if one parent can't pay or suddenly decides to stop payment.
The second and safer option is to register with Services Australia and elect for them to collect the support money on your behalf. The government entity has a wide range of collection abilities and is more likely to successfully recover missed child support payments.
In Australia, child support covers expenses such as food, housing, clothes, school costs, and children's extra-curricular activities. The obligation to pay applies to all parents—whether married, in a de facto relationship, some same-sex parents, and who have never lived together or never had a relationship.
As a general rule, if you wish to buy something for your child, you must pay for it—especially when the child is in your care.
When parents split time with the child equally, they must come to a mutual agreement about how to split fixed expenses. Fixed expenses include things like school fees, uniforms, dental care, and more.
In some cases, the supporting parent may provide child support by paying for bills or other expenses, rather than giving money directly to the other parent.
Up to 30% of child support can be paid this way. However, you should be careful when doing this, because the other parent may accuse you of not paying child support if they're not receiving it directly. The recipient should agree first, or you can apply to Services Australia to have this spending recognised.
Only certain expenses are eligible, including textbooks, school uniforms, child care payments, medical and dental expenses, housing expenses such as rent, and the costs of a motor vehicle.
In the case of special circumstances—such as a child having a large and unusual medical expense—the recipient may have to apply for Services Australia to review the case.
They will, in turn, seek information from both parents to determine what happens.
If you don't agree with your child support assessment, or cannot agree with the other parent, it's time to seek legal advice.
Sometimes it's impossible to come to an agreement on child support matters. You need to seek legal advice if:
If you are concerned about child support or the process of applying for an assessment, it's a good idea to start with legal advice, no matter your situation.
If you have separated or are going through a divorce with a child, it's time to talk about child support.
Child support can be a very emotional subject, and the process of putting an agreement in place can be traumatising for everyone involved if it's not handled with care.
To get accurate information and ensure that you are paying or receiving the correct amount, contact us and speak with an experienced family lawyer today.
Please note the contents of this post is information only and not legal advice. If you require legal advice it is best to contact one of our lawyers who can review your particular circumstances and then provide tailored advice according to your needs.
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