Child support is money paid by one parent to the other, to contribute towards the financial support of the children. The amount to be paid can be negotiated between the parents and can be calculated by the Child Support Agency.
Generally, a parent only needs to provide child support until a child turns 18 years of age. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Separated parents have a number of options to work out arrangements. They can:
- Agree on how much child support will be paid and then:
- Make the payments directly from one parent to the other (an informal arrangement);
- Enter into a legal agreement to formalise the payments (a private child support agreement).
- Register with the Child Support Agency to assess how much child support should be paid (this is calculated through a legislative formula) and then:
- Make the payments directly from one parent to the other;
- Have the CSA collect the money from one parent and distribute that money to the other.
The potential benefits of having a private arrangement are that:
- Neither parent has to deal with the Child Support Agency (normally parents have to be in contact with the CSA on a frequent basis);
- The amount to be paid is fixed (normally the amount to be paid changes each year, and sometimes more often);
- Parents can agree to make payments in lump sums (normally you have to pay weekly or monthly);
- Parents can agree to “in kind” payments, for example, payment of school fees.
The potential disadvantages of having the CSA assess the amount of child support are:
- Both parents will usually have to deal with the Child Support Agency on a frequent basis;
- The amount to be paid varies from year to year or whenever there is a change in a parent’s income;
- Parents have to make payments each month (rather than lump sums);
- Sometimes only a basic amount of child support is required to be paid, as the formula looks at income not assets.
If one parent believes that the amount that has been assessed is not fair because it does not accurately reflect their circumstances or the child’s circumstances, then they are able to apply for a ‘change of assessment’. There are specific rules prescribing when the amount can be charged.
Child support can be complicated.
Murdochs can provide advice based on your individual case, taking into account all of your financial circumstances.