The purpose of child support is to protect children from the economic impact of separation. It is given to ensure the child has food, shelter, childcare, and education, as well as the additional things that the child enjoyed while their parents were in a relationship.
There are generally five ways to address child support:
1. By mutual exclusion
First is to mutually exclude it if one parent is already financially providing for the needs of the resident parent and child. For example, they may be paying the mortgage and outgoings for the family home in amounts which are close or above a child support assessment.
2. By mutual private agreement
Second is for the separated parents to make a private payment arrangement between themselves. They can agree for one parent to pay a certain amount to the other or instead pay certain expenses for the other which benefits their child.
3. By lodging an application for a child support assessment with the Child Support Agency
Third is to lodge an application for a child support assessment with the Child Support Agency. The CSA will analyse the circumstances of the separated parents and apply a formula to decide how much money one parent should pay to the other each week, fortnight, or month. A free online child support calculator is available on the website for the Australian Government Department of Human Resources. If one parent does not agree with the assessment, they can apply for a re-assessment. If the assessment is accepted, the payer and payee have the option of making the child support payments characterised as private collect (paid directly from payer to payee) or agency collect (paid from the payer to the CSA for the CSA to pay the payee). The payer and payee ought to inform the CSA when the payer has made additional payments which may qualify them to benefit for a credit towards their obligations as non-agency payments.
4. By a formalised private agreement or Binding Child Support Agreement
Fourth is to formalise a private agreement between the payer and payee under a Limited Child Support Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement. The agreement is a deed which is lodged with the CSA. The private agreement is binding until it ether expires or becomes jointly cancelled. It ousts the CSA’s jurisdiction in intervene in the child support issues between the payer and payee except for enforcement.
5. By seeking a child support departure order
Fifth is to seek a child support departure order during proceedings before the Family Court of WA. The CSA will need to be given notice before a child support departure order is granted. This is often a course of last resort. Separated parents are expected to pursue all other avenues of appeal through the internal processes of the CSA and the Australian Administrative Tribunal before asking the Family Court of WA to make a child support departure order.
In some circumstances, it is possible to seek adult child maintenance for adult children who cannot work to support themselves due to a mental or physical disability or they need financial support to complete their tertiary undergraduate studies.
From time to time, it may be necessary to consider enforcing an unpaid child support liability. The CSA has wide powers such as being able to garnish income or making child support departure prohibition orders preventing parents with large child support arrears from travelling overseas until their debt is paid or adequate security is given.
If you have any questions about child support or wish to discuss your personal circumstances and suitable options, please feel welcome to contact one of our family lawyers by emailing us at [email protected] or calling 08 6478 7892.