By Briana Kotzapavlidis

17 May 2016

Anyone who has had to deal with the Child Support Agency will know that you need time (to complete all those forms) and patience (whilst waiting on the telephone to speak to someone about your query) when lodging a child support application. It also becomes quickly apparent that nothing in this jurisdiction is clear cut.

Whilst it is hard to navigate the child support jurisdiction, some of the mystery can be taken out of this area if you have a broad understanding of what main points are factored into every child support calculation. This is where the DHHS child support estimator can help.

A basic assessment of child support can be boiled down to these few critical issues:-

  1. How many nights per annum you and your former partner each have the child or children in your care?
  2. What is yours and your former partner’s current income? and,
  3. What is the current age of your child or children?

The Department of Human Services provides a “Child Support Estimator” so that you can input your answers to the foregoing questions, and thus calculate your child support entitlements or obligation.

Despite being a time-consuming process, when submitting your child support application it is advisable to provide the Child Support Agency with as much information as possible pertaining to the financial circumstances of you and your partner. This includes details regarding any changes that you or your former partner may have in respect to your current incomes, updated changes in the care arrangements for your children, or the provision of receipts and documents evidencing payment made on behalf of children, over and above the assessed rate of child support. Other factors that the Child Support Agency may consider are if you are currently in the process of settling your property proceedings and currently meet 100 per cent of your children’s school fees; or, if you are paying 100 per cent of mortgage costs or private health insurance premiums for family cover. Some of these payments, regarded as “non child support agency” payments, can be considered by the Child Support Agency when calculating your child support assessment. It is also important to include other relevant information, including other dependant children you may have from current or previous relationships.

A common issue for separated parents is the payment of private tuition fees, uniform costs and other ancillary expenses associated with a private education. These expenses are not covered by any child support assessment issued by the Child Support Agency. They will however, need to be factored in as part of any overall family law settlement. How these costs are to be paid by one party or shared between a separated couple is likely to have a significant impact on the negotiations in any family law settlement.

Parties in a family law matter can contract out of the Child Support Agency assessment by entering into a binding contract known as a Child Support Agreement. This Agreement sets out what cash amount, if any, parties are to pay by way of ongoing child support. Moreover, the Agreement also stipulates as to how non-periodic expenses such as school fees, uniforms and extra curricular activities are to be paid by parents.

The Child Support Agency operates on the premise that a Parenting Order is the best evidence of the current care arrangements for children in calculating the number of nights that each parent has the child or children in their care. Accordingly, copies of any Parenting Orders should also be provided to the Child Support Agency to be held on file.

When children are involved in any family law matter, we will always consider your rights and obligations in regards to payment of child support. The right advice in this area not only ensures that each party is paying what they should to cover the day-to-day expenses of the child until they turn 18 (or finish their secondary schooling in the year that they turn 18); but, such clarity can also act as a circuit breaker to conflict regarding the funding of daily expenses associated with the child’s upbringing upon separation.

 

If you have any queries about how to best manage your post separation financial position, please contact Briana Kotzapavlidis or a member of the Family Law team.

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