Separated with children? Overwhelmed trying to understand the complexities of Child Support? Frustrated trying to deal with the Child Support Agency?
If you are separated and have children, at some point you will have to consider how each parent is going to support your child/children. Whilst this may seem daunting there is some basic information you can use that will help you navigate through the maze and prevent a potential disaster.
How much child support do I pay and what does it cover?
Two parents can agree between themselves about how much each parent will pay and what this is to cover. This is called a private agreement. You don’t have to make a formal written agreement but it is advisable you do so. If there is no written agreement in place and one person changes his/her mind, your verbal agreement is not enforceable. If you need help drafting an agreement that works for you we can assist. You can also read more about agreements in our child support agreement factsheet.
How is Child Support Calculated?
If you don’t agree on how much support each parent should pay, either parent can apply to the Child Support Agency (CSA) for an assessment.
Child support is calculated using a complex formula. The formula is based on things such as
• the age of the child/ren,
• how many children you have,
• the average taxable income of each parent, and
• the time (normally the number of nights) each parent cares for the children.
In some circumstances, other factors can be taken into account such as the cost of a parent having contact (eg if one parent lives out of town), or the cost of private school fees.
The amount you receive or pay under an assessment is not necessarily directly related to the actual costs of supporting your children. If you prefer to pay based on the actual costs of raising your children, it is best to negotiate a private agreement.
To work out how much you may be entitled to receive or pay under an assessment, you can use the online calculator on the Department of Human Services website https://processing.csa.gov.au/estimator/About.aspx.
Once you have a child support assessment, you can opt to pay/ receive the amount privately, or you can ask the child support agency to collect the amount for you.
If you are on Centrelink benefits and entitled to receive child support, the amount you receive may influence how much Centrelink you are entitled to.
My income changes constantly. How do I know what I should pay?
Calculating child support can be very difficult when one parent does not have a constant income. This may occur when one person is in business or works casual hours where income varies regularly. If you are in business you may find it preferable to negotiate a private agreement based upon the actual costs of caring for your children. Come in and see us for further information.
What if the other parent doesn’t pay?
If the person you are entitled to receive support from, does not pay you should let the Child Support Agency know. Centrelink assumes you are getting the correct amount and your Centrelink benefits will be adjusted accordingly. The Child Support Agency can bring enforcement proceedings on your behalf to recover outstanding child support.
What if one parent does not live in Australia?
If one parent is not a resident of Australia, different rules may apply. In this situation, we recommend you see us for further legal advice.
I have an assessment, but my circumstances have changed. What do I do?
If your circumstances change you should let the child support agency know. Failure to notify them can lead to serious consequences and you may end up with a big debt you have to pay back.
I am caring for a child that is not my biological child. Am I entitled to child support?
If you are caring for a child, but you are not the child’s parent (eg. you are a grandparent or relative) you may also be entitled to receive child support. In this instance, we recommend you come and see us for further legal advice about your rights.
Want more information?
Phone us on 07 4031 1044, email us firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us here.