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Child Support

Contributed by Margie Rowe, Anna Theodore, Rosa Grahame and Elinor Knaggs and current to 23 April 2018

What does this section cover?

Following a separation, parents will often have to deal with child support in some way. This can be through an application to the Child Support Agency, making an agreement with the other parent or choosing to leave any arrangements as a flexible, ad hoc arrangement.

Child Support Assessment

The Child Support Agency (CSA) (run under the Department of Human Services) receives applications and will provide an assessment about which parent should pay what amount in child support. The Agency will look at factors including both parents' incomes, how much time the child spends with each parent and how old the child is. The application form can be found here: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/child-support/child-support-assessment#group-250

If the circumstances of either parent change, the Agency can re-examine the situation and see if the child support assessment needs to be adjusted. The Child Support Agency website provides a calculator to help estimate how much a parent may expect to receive here: https://processing.csa.gov.au/estimator/About.aspx

Child Support Agreements

There are two agreements that could be used to determine child support.

Binding Child Support Agreement

A Binding Child Support Agreement (BCSA) lets parents (or a caregiver of the child) make binding financial decisions about how to support their child. Both parents will need to seek independent legal advice to make this agreement valid. Each lawyer will need to sign a declaration in the agreement stating they explained the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement to their client.

A BCSA does not require the CSA to provide an assessment as a basis for the agreement. A BCSA cannot be varied and it can only be changed by terminating the agreement and making a new agreement. To terminate the BCSA, there must be a documented agreement by both parties to the termination.

Limited Child Support Agreement

A Limited Child Support Agreement (LCSA) allows the parents or caregivers of a child to make some decisions about how best to support the child. However it requires that a child support assessment is made prior to the agreement. For a LCSA to be valid, the amount payable must match the amount indicated by the assessment. Parties to this agreement do not need to have independent legal advice before it is agreed to.

A LCSA cannot be varied and it can only be changed by terminating the agreement and making a new agreement.

More information about both types of agreement is here:
http://guides.dss.gov.au/child-support-guide/2/7/1#bindingchildsupportagreements

Court Applications for Child Support

The Family Courts do not make assessments of child support and you can't apply to those Courts until you have taken steps through the CSA. An agreement about child support can be included in Consent orders only as a notation, but cannot be determined or enforced by the Court itself.

If you dispute an assessment of the CSA, after going through the CSA's dispute process, you can apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to review the decision. If the dispute or objection is not in the AAT's scope, then it may be heard by the Courts.

Child support matters the Family Courts can hear

The Court can hear applications that may affect child support including:
  • Making a declaration that a person is not a parent under the meaning of the Child Support Act;
  • That a binding child support agreement is invalid;
  • An urgent application for the payment of child support;
  • An appeal from an AAT decision.

Maintenance for children over 18 years of age

The CSA child support scheme only applies to children under 18 years of age. However child support can continue for children over 18 years of age if they have not completed High School when they turn 18. The Family Courts hear applications for ongoing child maintenance for children over the age of 18 years. Circumstances in which ongoing maintenance may be ordered include:
  • The child is still dependent as a result of studying at university;
  • The child is still dependent as a result of a disability.

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