Child support is the regular payment made by one parent to the other parent, or carer, for the benefit of the child of the relationship after separation.
Child Support is governed by the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 as opposed to the Family Law Act and is assessed by the Child Support Agency. Because of this, the assessment of child support is an administrative function and has vastly reduced the role of lawyers and the court system.
In its assessment, the Child Support Agency will follow eight steps to calculate the amount of child support payable:
- Work out your child support income (if you have dependent children or more than two child support assessments, this will be taken into account at this step)
- Work out the combined child support income
- Work out your income percentage
- Work out your care percentage
- Work out your cost percentage
- Work out your child support percentage
- Work out the cost of your child (you will get either a positive or negative child support percentage. If the percentage is positive, you will need to pay child support)
- Work out the child support amount
You can enter into a private arrangement with your former partner in place of the Child Support Agency’s assessment that can be formalised through a Limited Child Support Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement.
Limited Child Support Agreements allow parents some flexibility to provide an approach to manage their child support arrangements. These types of agreements will not be accepted by the Child Support Agency if the payments are less than the amount determined by a child support assessment.
Binding Child Support Agreements allows parents to make binding agreements about child support payments. These types of agreements are accepted by Child Support Agency. Independent legal advice must, however, be obtained before entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement.
The child support system in Australia is complex so the best thing to do if you have separated and have children is to contact the Child Support Agency to get information specific to your circumstances.