We have experienced child support lawyers here to help you navigate through the child support process.
What Is Child Support?
Child support is payable from one parent to the other following separation until each child turns 18. It can continue after a child is 18 years old if they are still at school, in which case child support may be payable until the end of that school year.
Child support is intended to share the costs of raising children between the separated parents. It is therefore meant to cover the usual day-to-day costs incurred such as public-school fees, minor medical expenses and personal items. More significant expenses like private school fees and orthodontic expenses can be treated separately in various ways; in some circumstances those expenses can be offset against ongoing child support payments.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
The legislation sets out a basic 8-step formula to calculate the child support payable from one parent to the other. The child support formula takes into account:
- Each parent’s income – this is not always limited to the taxable income and can take into account certain adjustments for fringe benefits (such as the use of a vehicle).
- The amount of care that each parent provides to the child or children
- The age of the children
The basic formulate is varied if a child lives with a non-parent carer or where one or both parents have multiple child support cases.
For more information about the basic child support formula, see https://guides.dss.gov.au/child-support-guide/2/4/7.
How Much Will I Pay?
Your child support assessment will depend on the particular formula assessment in your case.
The Department of Human Services have a great estimator to allow you determine your estimated child support assessment. This can be a very useful resource if you are considering the impact of changes in care arrangements on your child support liability.
How Is Child Support Collected?
Once an assessment has been completed, child support can be collected:
- Privately, between the parties; or
- Either party can request that DHS handle collection of child support.
If DHS collection is selected, then DHS will be responsible for the initial determination of child support and the enforcement of any unpaid child support debt. The DHS has wide collection powers, including a number of coercive powers to ensure payment is made. These include the ability to take deductions from a parent’s pay (garnishee arrangement), the ability to seize tax refunds or the institution of litigation.
There are risks associated with private collection arrangements. If a paying parent stops making payments, a receiving parent can apply with the Department of Human Services – Child Support (DHS) to collect the payments on their behalf. The Department will be happy to arrange collection, however there are time limits on the period of arrears that can be sought (usually three months, however it can be 9 months in certain circumstances).
Can We Reach A Private Child Support Agreement?
Parents can agree on the rate of child support and how it will be paid (either in cash, by regular bank transfer or by way of payments to a third party such as a school). The risks associated with private collection arrangements are set out above. The ability to recover any arrears may also depend on whether there was a child support assessment in place for the relevant period.
We recommend that even if a private arrangement is reached regarding the amount and collection of child support, that an application for assessment be made with an election for private collection. This will assist with the collection of arrears if payments are not made.
If you want to determine your own assessments or payments but are still looking for a formal arrangement, our child support lawyers can assist you with Binding or Limited Child Support Agreements.
When Can I Apply For Child Support?
An application for a child support assessment can be made as soon as you have separated from the other parent. This can occur.
You can make an application for a child support assessment at any time, as long as you are separated from the other parent. It can be made the day you separate, even if you are living in the same house, although certain conditions will need to be met. Or an application can be brought years after separation if your private arrangement has failed.
Do I Have To Report A Change In Income?
If your income has decreased, you can advise DHS and provide an estimate of your income which will result in a new Notice of Assessment being issued. Once you file your tax return for the relevant year, the estimate is reconciled against your actual income and any underpayment will then be payable. You may be subject to an estimate penalty if you grossly underestimate your income.
If your income increases substantially, for example if you get a promotion or a new job, you are not required to report that change to DHS. Your child support assessments will continue to be determined based on your previous taxable incomes. The other parent, however, can lodge an application for a change of assessment if they are aware that your income has increased.
I Disagree With A Notice Of Assessment, What Can I Do?
You can object to a Notice of Assessment within the time frame set out on the Notice.
If your objection relates to an issue that relates to a period longer than the particular Notice of Assessment you have received, you may be able to make an application for a change of assessment.
The 10 reasons for a change of assessment are:
- The high costs incurred by a parent to spend time with or communicate with a child
- The special needs of the child
- The high costs of caring for, educating or training the child in the manner expected by the parents (for example, private school fees if it had been agreed that the child would attend a particular school)
- The income of the child
- The money, goods or property received by the child, the receiving parent or a third party
- The high costs of child care for the child
- A parent’s necessary commitments of self-support
- A parent’s income, property, financial resources or earning capacity (for example, if a parent is self-employed and their income is not accurately recorded or if you are aware that they have commenced a higher paying job)
- The duty to maintain any other child or another person
- The responsibility of a parent to maintain a resident child
Our child support lawyers can help you determine whether you are eligible for an application for a change of assessment and we offer a set fee review for this service. We can also assist you with your application or objection if you require.
We are here to help
Our experienced child support lawyers can assist you with your child support matter. If you have a question, want further information or would like to speak to someone, make an enquiry or phone 1800 329 090 now.