Generally issues relating to child support are not dealt with by the Family Law Courts. The Child Support Agency (CSA) is an independent body that governs the rules, regulations and assessments for Child Support payments. The CSA website provides detailed information regarding all aspects of child support.

Under the Child Support Assessment Act (1989) and the Family Law Act (1975), both parents have a legal obligation to provide adequate financial support to their children until they reach the age of 18. This includes:

  • Biological children of a married or de facto couple,
  • Adopted children of a married or de facto couple, and
  • In some circumstances, step-children.

The CSA calculates child support payments according to a formula which takes into account the following:

  • What it costs to care for the children,
  • The adjusted income of both parties, and
  • The number of overnights the children are in each party’s care.

The CSA has an online calculator that may produce a useful estimate. Either parent may object to the CSA’s determination, if it seems to be incorrect. The CSA will then allow or disallow the objection, but further appeal is possible.

If you elect for the CSA to collect payments from the assessed parent on your behalf then they will collect periodic payments from the paying parent and transfer them to you.

If you choose to privately collect your CSA payments once the CSA has assessed how much you are entitled to receive, then you may agree with the assessed parent to be paid in a variety of ways, including periodic payments, non-periodic payments, such as payment of school fees or lump sum payments. These methods are not enforceable by the CSA, however, you may choose to enter into a private Binding Child Support Agreement with the paying parent which covers how much and in which method you will be paid.

How Are Child Support Obligations Enforced?

The CSA generally collects and distributes child support payments. It has the primary role of enforcing child support arrangements in the event of non-payment and has extensive investigative and collection powers to do so.

The CSA may garnish wages, collect from non-employer third parties, intercept tax refunds and any government benefit payments. It may even prevent a party in arrears from leaving the country. Either the CSA or the payee may also resort to the court system for additional enforcement options.

Overseas Child Support Issues

Collecting child support payments when one parent is not resident in Australia can be difficult and somewhat complex.

Australia has reciprocal agreements with many overseas jurisdictions regarding the assessment and collection of child support payments, however, in order to enforce payments from a parent who is overseas, there needs to be an existing child support assessment in place and the parent enforcing the assessment must be resident in Australia. If you find yourself in a situation similar to this, we urge you to speak with one of our family law solicitors about your options of collecting child support from an overseas parent.

Can’t We Just Agree Between Ourselves?

Yes, but whether or not a private agreement is in your best interests will depend on your specific circumstances. Our experts in family law can provide you with advice specific to your situation in relation to child support agreements.

There are two different categories of child support agreements:

Binding Child Support Agreements should not be confused with undocumented informal arrangements. Binding Child Support Agreements must be the product of formal negotiation, conducted with the benefit of independent legal advice and they must be in writing and signed by both parties.

Parties can agree to set child support at any amount they choose and determine by what method the paying parent will make payments to the other parent. Binding Child Support Agreements can be entered into between parents even if no child support assessment has been made. They give parties the flexibility to determine what level and what method of child support is most suitable to their family situation.

Binding Child Support Agreements can only be changed by entering into a new Binding Child Support Agreement or making an application to the court to have the agreement terminated. The court will only set aside agreements in particular circumstances and if you are a party to a Binding Child Support Agreement and you are seeking to have it set aside we strongly advise seeking the advice of one of our family law practitioners.

Limited Child Support Agreements are formal agreements entered into by parties in writing. They do not require independent legal advice and they are based on a minimum level of support which must be no less than the assessment conducted by the Child Support Agency. Once signed by the parties, they must then be lodged with and accepted by the CSA before they are implemented.

A Limited Child Support Agreement may be replaced with a new and different agreement after three years, either upon application to the CSA or court order. Such an alteration might be warranted if the child’s needs change or either parent’s adjusted income changes radically. This is not an option available with Binding Child Support Agreements.

The major differences between Binding Child Support Agreements and Limited Child Support Agreements are that limited agreements are overseen and lodged by the CSA and binding agreements are private contracts between the parties without the involvement of the CSA and generally more difficult to vary or set aside. Binding agreements also require each party to obtain independent legal advice prior to entering into the agreement.

Determining whether or not a BCSA is for suitable for you or if engaging the assistance of the CSA would be more beneficial in your circumstance are matters in which it is particularly important to have the assistance of an experienced family lawyer, like those at Owen Hodge Lawyers. We find that skilled negotiation and settlement of family law issues often produces a better long-term result than having to resort to the court system.

Our family lawyers are both expert and approachable. Let us help you plan for the financial provision of your children following separation and divorce. If you need any assistance with child support or other family law matters, please contact us at 1800 770 780.

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