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Child Support

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Child Support

In Australia, “child support” or “child maintenance” is an ongoing periodic payment by a parent for the financial benefit of their child.

Typically this is for children under 18 years of age; however, there are circumstances whereby support can be paid for the financial benefit of a child who is over the age of 18.

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Support for children under 18

As part of your obligations to maintain your child, you are required to cover your child’s expenses such as food, housing, clothing, activities and costs associated with schooling. These are the costs that the family law courts and the government consider to be reasonably required so that a child or children has the capacity to achieve their full potential.

Child support can be negotiated between you and your former spouse directly. We recommend formalising child support arrangements through the Child Support Agency (‘CSA’) or by entering into a binding child support agreement.

The CSA uses a formula that mathematically evaluates how much a parent should pay for their child. Factors the CSA take into account when evaluating their assessment include:

  • How many children are involved and how old they are;
  • The income of the parents; and
  • The amount of time the child or children spend in each parents care.

A CSA assessment will typically change as income changes from year to year.

Following an assessment by the CSA, the parents can either pay the amount due privately (i.e. directly to the other parent) or the CSA can collect the payments on behalf of the child. If payment is made directly between the parents, we recommend keeping detailed records of the payments made

(including who received the payment, who the payment was for, and the amount which was paid).

For more information on payment methods, please see the Australian Department of Human Services website.

If you feel you are paying too much child support, or that the assessment is unfair or inaccurate in any way, there are circumstances where you can apply for a CSA assessment to be varied. For example, a variation might be reasonable if you are solely responsible for paying for your child’s private school, your child’s special needs or your child’s special talents (for example, elite athleticism). Another example is where the child has an unusual earning capacity, such that they generate their own income.

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Binding child support agreement

If you do not wish to use the CSA assessment, you can enter into a binding child support agreement. This is a private agreement between you and your former spouse that outlines the payments to be made, including:

  • The type of payment (or combination thereof), for example:
    • Periodic payments made on a weekly or fortnightly basis;
    • Non-periodic payments made occasionally for a particular thing, but not on a regular basis (i.e. lump sum payments for school fees, uniforms, etc); and/or
    • Directly to a third party, such as the child’s school or directly to the child’s private health care provider;
  • The amount;
  • The frequency; and
  • The method of payment.

Binding child support agreement

Once you and your partner enter into a binding child support agreement, it cannot be varied other than by agreement between the parties. If your circumstances change where you cannot afford to pay the support stipulated within the agreement, you will still be bound to make those payments.

At Ramsden Lawyers, our family lawyers can assist you to:

Change an existing assessment through the CSA;
Apply, in special circumstances, for support through Family or Federal Circuit Court; and/or
Enter into a private agreement (by negotiating and drafting the relevant document, and submitting it to the CSA so no further assessment can be made).

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Support for children over 18

A child over 18 years of age is suitable for adult child maintenance from their parents if:

  • The child is completing secondary or tertiary education;
  • The child has a serious illness; or
  • The child has a physical and/or mental disability.

If an adult child’s circumstances fall into the categories above, either the adult child or a parent can apply for adult child maintenance against the other parent. How much maintenance is paid depends on an array of factors such as:

  • The necessary expenses of the adult child;
  • The capacity of the parent to pay; and
  • The amount a parent needs to support themselves or anyone else they have a duty for.
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Support for children over 18

It is favourable to identify that the adult child is attempting to pay for some of their necessary expenses. However, the court will take into consideration the child’s personal circumstances, work commitments, educational commitments and any other factor preventing this.

In making an application for adult child maintenance, there are two primary methods you can take through the court, namely:

  • File orders by consent (i.e. you agree on the specific payments to be made and formalise the arrangements); or
  • Make a court application (i.e. the court will determine how much maintenance should be awarded).
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Support for children over 18

If you believe you or your adult child may be entitled to adult child maintenance, our family lawyers will be able to evaluate which method will be most suited to your circumstances and assist you in a timely and cost effective manner.

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