In Australia, unless parents can agree otherwise, the support of children of separated parents is regulated by the Child Support Agency. The Agency can provide an assessment for the amount of child support payable as well as (if required) collect the payments on behalf of the parent entitlement to receive the payments.
The Child Support Agency assesses a parent’s liability based on a number of factors. There is a helpful calculator on their website to assist parents to estimate the amount payable – (www.csa.gov.au). This calculator gives an indication as to the amount of support payable based on the following:
- Each parent’s income;
- The number and age of the relevant children;
- Whether either parent has other children (from another relationship) to support; and
- The percentage of time the children spend with each parent.
Expenses such as private school fees, extracurricular activities and orthodontic treatment are not taken into account under the assessment. Parents with such expenses can apply to the Child Support Agency (CSA) for a change to the assessment based on the ‘special circumstances’ in their matter.
There are a number of options for meeting the obligation to support children, these include:
1. An informal arrangement – which either parent can change at any time; or
2. Administrative assessment of child support based on the child support formula – which may not be accurate, particularly if one parent is self-employed or there are extra child expenses such as private school fees; or
3. A Limited Child Support Agreement is operative for a limited time only and can be changed by one parent in some circumstances.
4. A Binding Child Support Agreement – requires independent legal advice.
Parents do not need to be involved with the Child Support Agency, they can decide for themselves the best way for them both to support their children. However, private Child Support agreements can impact on Centrelink payments a parent receives.
It is important to seek advice in relation to your child support obligations and/or entitlements to make sure you children are properly looked after following your separation.