What is Child Support?
Child support is a term that refers to a type of financial support between separated or divorced parents. Child support is a federal scheme, called The Child Support Scheme, which ensures that all children living in Australia receive appropriate financial support following separation or divorce.
Regular payments are made from one parent to the other to ensure that both parents are making an equitable contribution to the well-being of their children who are under 18 years of age.
A parent seeking financial support through the scheme can apply for child support under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. If a parent is unable to apply for a child support assessment, then the Court does have the power to make child maintenance orders pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (see section 66G).
What Does Child Support Cover?
Child support was designed to be a financial contribution to raising a child or children. Expenses that relate to raising a child include food, clothing, housing, school costs, extra-curricular activities, etc. and the intention of child support payments is to assist with these costs. In saying this, the expenses covered by child support are not regulated and are at the discretion of the parent receiving the payments.
By not regulating child support (payable to the parent with primary care in most cases), parents are enabled to use those funds as is best suited to the individual needs of their family. For example, if your child needs unexpected medical care, payments can be used to cover those medical costs.
It is unlikely child support payments will cover all the expenses of raising children, as it is designed as a financial contribution – it is a type of support to assist the parent with primary custody in meeting the financial needs of their children. What that means is dependent on the financial circumstances of the parents involved and is assessed on a case-by-case basis, the goal of which is to determine a fair and equitable contribution.
Applying for Child Support in Australia?
There are different methods for parents to seek financial support for dependents from former spouses. The first method is to apply for a Child Support Assessment through the DHS and another method is to submit an application for child maintenance orders.
Getting a Child Support Assessment
Child support assessments are carried out by the Department of Human Services (DHS) which are used to determine how much financial support should be paid and which parent should receive these payments (in most cases, this will be the parent with primary care).
To apply for a child support assessment, you will need to contact the DHS or go to the DHS website where you can find more information about applying, the process, and what information you will need to provide.
Child Maintenance Orders
Where a parent seeking child support is unable to apply through the DHS, the Court does have the power to make child maintenance orders pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (see section 66G).
This can be a self-managed child support agreement between parties who are able to come to an agreement through mediation, or, it can be ordered by the Court.
Attempting to secure financial support this way will require a family lawyer, like the expert family lawyers at Michael Conley Lawyers. A family lawyer can provide a wide range of family-focused legal services and guide you through the process, explaining what is involved in a child support assessment and whether or not you can expect to pay child support.
The goal of working with a family lawyer is to secure the fairest and most equitable outcome for the child or children involved, to ensure all their needs are met, now and into the future.
How are Child Support Payments Calculated?
Support payments are based on the incomes of both parents and the percentage of care each parent is responsible for (how often in a year they look after the child or children).
Where more than one child is involved and the level of care is different for each, then payments can differ between dependents based on the care percentage.
The recipient of support payments can also apply to have the amount paid adjusted, which can be based on a myriad of circumstances, such as an increase in income, special circumstances, or an unexpected ongoing cost that needs to be taken into consideration.
Seeking Legal Advice on Child Support?
If you are seeking legal advice regarding child maintenance, speak to a legal professional for further information – contact one of Sydney’s leading family lawyers and book a FREE 15-minute consultation.