QUESTION: How can I avoid friction over child support assessments?

Child support can be a difficult issue and can sometimes place a strain on the ongoing parenting relationship for separated parents.

Understanding the process can help to ease the stress and confusion surrounding this issue.

How Are Child Support Assessments Worked Out?

The Child Support Agency assesses the amount of child support payable according to the formula. The two main factors considered in the assessment are the income of each parent and the care arrangements for the children.

Can I Object To The Assessment?

Yes you can. You will need to lodge an objection with the agency and provide information to support your objection. A review officer will then undertake an internal review, and contact both parents before making a decision about whether to vary the assessment or not.

If you are still not satisfied with the decision, there is the option to apply to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) of the Court for a further review or variation of your assessment. However, the grounds for such an appeal are limited and there are timeframes for bringing the application. You should seek legal advice about this quickly, so that you have time to appeal.

What About School Fees? 

If you and the other parent wish the children to attend a private school, you may be able to seek an increase in the amount of child support you receive to cover a share of the school fees. Alternatively, if you are paying the school fees as well as the assessed child support, you may be able to have these fees taken into account in the agency’s assessment.

When Does A Child Support Assessment Finish? 

A child remains eligible for child support until their 18th birthday. However, there are circumstances where the assessment can be extended beyond this date, for example if they are still at school after they turn 18. You would need to apply to extend the assessment before your child’s 18th birthday.

If a child under 18 is working and earning an income, the Child Support Agency cannot automatically end the assessment. You are legally responsible to continue to pay child support until the assessment is varied. You may need to apply to the Child Support Agency for departure that varies the assessment for that child if you believe that it is just and equitable to do so in view of the child’s income, earning capacity or financial resources.

Is There Any Other Way To Sort Out Child Support?

Parents can reach agreement between themselves about the appropriate amount of child support that suits their circumstances. They can choose to enter into an agreement about this. There are legal requirements that need to be satisfied when entering into a Child Support Agreement, so you should seek legal advice about your specific situation before deciding what to do.

Child support can ignite issues between separated parents, however understanding the system and knowing where you stand may assist separated parents to get on with the job of being parents.

If you would like further information please contact Andrew Crooke a member of our Family Law Team on 07 46169898.

 

Prepared by Andrew Crooke