Who buys the blazer? Back to school child support issues
Yes, it’s that time of year again and the kids are going back to school. For many separated parents, the start of term brings with it a multitude of challenges including new schedules, long commutes, and extracurricular activities. One common issue that arises at the start of year is the school uniform: who buys it, who forgot it and who ripped it?
Of course, parents can come to their own arrangements about these issues and both parties have a financial obligation to maintain children and meet their living, health and educational expenses. However, if one parent is receiving Child Support payments as assessed by the Child Support Agency, at law, the cost of school uniforms is covered in their Assessment of Child Support and the receiving parent is responsible for purchasing those items as and when required. If the paying parent purchases the school uniforms instead, then they can seek to have up to 30% of their Child Support Payment credited as a ‘prescribed non-agency payment’, but only if they have less than 14% care of the child(ren) and are otherwise up to date with their payments as assessed. If the receiving parent considers that the paying parent has reduced or manipulated their income to reduce the child support payable pursuant to an administrative assessment, then at the appropriate time, that parent may seek a change of assessment or a review of the assessment and require the paying parent to substantiate their income to the Child Support Agency.
If the child(ren) attend private school, school uniform and associated expenses can be significant. Depending on individual circumstances, it may be beneficial for a Binding Child Support Agreement (BCSA) to be entered into by parents in these circumstances. A BCSA allows parents to ‘opt out’ of the legislated Child Support system and to create a tailored set of arrangements that work for their family, and will often specifically cover additional expenses such as school uniforms, medical costs and even iPhone bills and driving lessons (kids these days…).
With the technicalities out of the way, it is important for parents to take a common sense approach to issues such as school uniforms. Communication and organisation is key, and if at all possible, having a uniform at each home can solve many problems!
For more information, or to seek the assistance of our family law team in relation to the complexities of child support, please contact the TLFC Family Law Team on 03 8600 9333.