How does child support work?
Sometimes parents entitled to be paid Child Support by the other parent advise us that they do not want it, or that they do not intend to claim it. Such statements are often emotionally driven.
It is important to remember that Child Supportis a legal obligation, not a moral one. While a parent may believe they do not need this money or want any tie to the other parent, it must be remembered that Child Support is not about the parent – it’s about the child.
The Child Support Agency (CSA)
The Child Support Agency is an Australian Federal Government office, attached to the ATO. It was formed in 1989. Its purpose is to assess and collect child support payments.
Child support is assessed by the Child Support Agency pursuant to a formula. The formula was changed in July 2008 and is based on a number of factors, including:
- The income of both parents;
- The level of care that each parent has; and
- The cost of children pursuant to the ‘cost’ tables
The Child Support Agency assessment may be departed from in special circumstances including where:
- children have special needs;
- children are attending a private school;
- there are significant transport costs involved in a parent ‘spending time with’ a child; and
- either parents income cannot be easily calculated
If parent reach an agreement as to how they want to pay child support they can enter into aprivate agreement. There are two types of Child Support Agreements, binding and limited.
A binding agreement has strict requirements, including a solicitors certificate being signed. They can only be terminated by a further written agreement or an Order of the Court.
A limited agreement does not need a solicitors certificate however there must be a formula assessment already in place and the amounts payable under the agreement must be equal to or greater than the formula assessment.
What Should I Do If I Cannot Pay?
Get legal advice immediately if you cannot pay the required amount of Child Support. This will help you to avoid any extra costs for not paying.
If you lose your job and receive an income-tested benefit, your assessment will reduce to a minimal amount.
Who Enforces Payment?
The Child Support Agency is usually responsible for collecting payments, unless you agree to a private collection. If arrears accrue it is possible for you to pursue enforcement of arrears through the Court, if you wish.
If you are making payments and they fall behind, the Child Support Agency may take any of the following steps:
- Ask you to produce certain documents to make clear what your financial situation is. The Agency is also able to access protected information held by the tax office;
- Contact your employer and have child support payments deducted from your wages;
- Intercept any tax refund
If you have consistently failed to pay your Child Support, you may be prevented from leaving the country.
If you require assistance with your Child Support arrangements contact us on Ph. 3221 4300 for a ‘no-obligation’ fixed cost initial appointment