Navigating the relationship breakdown aspect of separation or divorce can be challenging enough – add complex issues like child support into the mix and, if you’re not prepared, things can quickly become messy.
We asked Stephanie Murray of Richardson Murry Law to break down everything you need to know about child support.
“If you are not living with the other parent of your child you may be entitled to, or have to pay to the other, child support,” says Stephanie. “Child support is designed to have both parents contribute to the costs of raising children, including housing, food, clothing, medical costs, school expenses and day to day needs.”
Assessing how much child support is payable in your circumstance is managed by the Department Of Human Services (‘DHS’), also known as the Child Support Agency.
“This is based on a formula using both parents’ incomes, and the percentage of care between the parents,” says Stephanie. “It is assessed based on the number of nights the child or children spend in the respective parent’s care.”
Once an assessment is issued by DHS, you have several options to arrange the collection of child support.
You can enter a private arrangement in order to agree on the amount and payment of child support, including school fees, private health premiums or extra-curricular expenses. Stephanie says this can be an informal agreement (meaning it is not able to be enforced) or within a formal child support agreement.
Formal child support agreements can be by way of:
- Binding agreement – This agreement can reflect any payment amount and time frame. Each party must obtain independent legal advice as to the long term effects of signing the child support agreement given it will be in place until the termination date (usually when the children obtain the age of 18 or they no longer reside with that parent). These agreements can only be varied or revoked by agreement between the parties, or an application to the Family Court;
- Limited agreement – This agreement must be for payment of child support in an amount equal to or more than the assessed amount payable in child support. Neither party is required to obtain independent legal advice. The agreement can be ended by either party after a period of three years, or if there is a significant change in circumstances, prior to that date.
“The agreements are then registered with DHS who are entitled to pursue the paying party for collection of child support,” says Stephanie.
Collection by the DHS
“You can also have the child support agency collect the payments on your behalf,” says Stephanie.
The DHS has the power to collect payments through alternative methods, including having the person’s employer deduct it from their wages and make the payment directly to the child support amount, recovering the amount from any government support, and deducting any amount owing from any tax refund they are entitled to from the ATO.
“Any arrears will continue to be accrue and will be required to be paid by one of the previously stated methods,” says Stephanie.
Do you have more questions about child support? Get in touch with Stephanie and the Richardson Murray team on 5619 5933 or visit their website to learn more.