When parents separate, one of the most important things to sort out is child support. It’s one way that Australian family law tries to ensure that there’s minimal impact on the kids after a relationship ends.
What is child support?
The Family Law Act, as well as other laws, imposes a duty on parents to maintain their children. This is known as child support. It is the money paid from one parent to the other for the financial support of their children.
Can I apply for child support?
Anyone who is concerned for the care, welfare, or development of the child can apply for child support, including:
- Either parent.
- The child.
- A grandparent.
- Any other person known to the child.
How do I get child support?
If an agreement for child support can be reached between you and your ex-partner, you can enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement. It is mandatory to get legal advice before entering into the agreement because it can be made for any amount – it could even be less than a government assessment of child support. For this reason, both parties must have extensive understanding of the implications of entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement.
If you and your ex-partner can’t reach an agreement, the most common option is to apply for child support via the Department of Human Services (DHS). Before making the application, we recommend that you get legal advice to ensure that all of your child’s current and future needs are considered.
How much child support will I get?
Child support can be an amount agreed between you and your ex-partner, a court ordered amount (see our discussion below) or an amount assessed by the DHS.
The law sets out a range of things that must be taken into account when considering what amount of financial support is necessary for the child. They include:
- The proper needs of the child.
- The age of the child.
- The manner in which the child is being educated.
When it comes to working out the size of the contribution, things to be taken into account include:
- Income of each party.
- Earning capacity of each party.
- Property of each party.
- Ability of the parties to support themselves or any other child or person.
- The costs incurred by the parent with whom the child lives.
For further details, go to the DHS child support estimator.
What happens if my ex-partner refuses to pay child support?
Child support is not taken into account with other parenting issues. This means that even if your ex-partner refuses or fails to pay child support, they can still spend time with the children under any parenting agreement or orders that are in place.
If your child support is assessed by DHS, the DHS can recover overdue child support in various ways including deducting the money owing from your ex-partner’s pay, intercepting tax refunds or applying to court to seize assets or to enforce the sale of assets.
Child support can’t be recovered by the DHS if you are managing your own child support payments through a parenting plan or other informal agreement, or a Binding Child Support Agreement.
In some situations, it may be necessary to apply to the court to enforce payment of child support or a debt that has accrued. If you believe that you may need to make such an application, you should seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible.
Do I need a lawyer?
When sorting out child support, it’s a good idea to get some legal advice from the outset so that you can work out how best to proceed. A good family lawyer will be experienced enough to anticipate any difficulties along the way and to help you assess your child’s future needs. This can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Websters Lawyers has a team of outstanding family lawyers who are experienced in managing child support issues. Contact us today for a free first consultation. Because the sooner you act, often the better off you’ll be.