How is child support determined? 5 minutes on child support.

Neal Wood

Financial support for children after separation is one of those divisive issues that tend to bring out either the best or worst in people.

For some, even though there is very little common ground on anything else, the one thing that they can agree on is making sure that the kids don’t miss out on the essentials and lifestyle they have been used to while Mum and Dad were together.   In that situation, matters of who pays for what for the kids can be resolved informally and directly between parents without ever needing the assistance of a lawyer for Child Support to work out what should be paid, when, and by who.

In other situations, it may be that with a little bit of guidance from the Department of Human Services Child Support section and after trying a few combinations using the online Child Support Estimator, parents can work out between themselves an agreed amount of financial support to be paid by one parent to the other.  They may also be able to work out a practical arrangement that works for them to share the other costs for the kids like out of pocket medical expenses, school fees, sport and school camps.

If things are not as amicable then an application can be made to the Federal Department of Human Services Child Support section for the other parent to be assessed to pay child support.  From there, the parents will be guided through an administrative process set out in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 and the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 to work out a formula based assessment for a periodic amount that one parent may need to pay to the other.

For some, that may again be the end of things with both parents being able to abide by the Assessment and pay the periodic amount determined by the Assessment letter that arrives in the mail or to your MyGov Account from time to time.

Lawyers tend to get involved when parties are unable to agree and the amount of the child support determined by the Department using the Assessment has produced a result that is unfair in the circumstances of the matter and there should be a “departure” from that assessment.  The grounds for seeking that change, how to go about it and whether it should continue to be dealt with by the Department, a legal Tribunal or the Court dealing with a family law dispute are all difficult questions that need to be carefully looked at in the individual circumstances.

Lawyers also tend to get involved at the other end of the spectrum where parents can agree on the amount of financial support for the kids, including those extra costs and want to create legal certainty by entering into a Binding or Limited Child Support Agreement.  When completed correctly Child Support Agreements can remove the uncertainty that can result from the changes of the Department’s Assessment and give everyone much greater flexibility about how child support is going to be paid, including those extra expenses.

Put simply, child support is one of the more complicated areas of law that we practice in and the interplay between several different laws (made up of the two Child support Acts, the Family Law Act, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act and the corresponding Rules and Regulations) can at times be overwhelming.

Be confident that if you are feeling unsure about the financial support of the kids then one of our family and divorce lawyers in Brisbane, ToowoombaIpswich and North Lakes will be able to assist, whether as a standalone issue or part of your family law property or parenting matter. Contact our office now to find out how we can assist you.