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Determining Child Support

Child Support can be determined by agreement between parents or through the Child Support Agency.

Where parents can agree, the Child Support Agency does not have to be involved. However, some parents may prefer for the Child Support Agency to work out the amount to be paid, but they may choose to transfer amounts privately. Private collection of a child support formula assessment can also affect Family Tax Benefit Part A entitlements.

If the Child Support Agency is asked to provide a Child Support Assessment it is calculated according to a formula. The formula requires both parents to provide financial support of their children as far as they are able to do so. The formula considers research on the cost of raising children, parental income, other dependent children and time spent with each parent. An online child support estimator can be found on the CSA website.
Sometimes the formula produces a result which is not appropriate. This might happen if a parent has lost their job since the assessment was made or the child has special needs or because the child is attending a private school. The Child Support Agency can be asked to change the assessment.

If you are not happy with a decision made by the Child Support Agency, it is possible to challenge the decision. An internal review process, a right to apply to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal for a review or a right to go to court could each be options depending on the nature of the decision.

The lawyers at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists Melbourne are experienced with helping parents to work through both the financial and practical issues involved in an agreement for Child Support. We can help to ensure proper arrangements are made for the ongoing financial, physical and emotional support of your child or children. We can assist you with dealing with the Child Support Agency, whether you are making an application for child support or are disputing a decision made by the Child Support Agency.

Mathews Family Law is a leading family law firm in Melbourne. Please contact us on 1300 635 529 to speak with a family lawyer from our law firm today. You can also send through your enquiry online now and we will contact you shortly.

What if I dispute being the father?

If a father gets a Child Support Assessment notice from the Child Support Agency to pay child support, but disputes being a parent of the child, it is possible to apply to Court. It is necessary to apply within 56–60 days of receiving the assessment. The time limit depends on which court you use. Get legal advice if you wish to question an assessment.

How do I overcome the father dispute parentage?

If the father disputes parentage, the father can be asked to sign a document agreeing he is the father, or to take a parentage test. If the father refuses, it is possible to get a Court Order for parentage testing. The Court cannot physically force parentage testing, but in the absence of test results the Court can make a decision to name the father. These steps can be avoided if there is a ‘presumption of parentage’. It may help to seek legal advice on whether this presumption applies in your situation.

What happens if there is a paternity dispute?

Parentage will be presumed if:

  • the child was born during a marriage,
  • the parents lived together for a certain time before the child was born (if this applies to you, it is important to get legal advice),
  • a person is named as a parent during court action or on a birth certificate,
  • a person has signed an ‘acknowledgment of paternity’ or
  • a person has adopted the child.

Parentage can be proved in three ways:

  • a statutory declaration can be signed agreeing paternity,
  • the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages can be informed by the parents that their names should be on the birth certificate or
  • a Court can make an order to allow for a Child Support Assessment to be made because a person is a parent of the child.

Who can receive child support, other than parents?

For a non-parent career to receive Child Support, they must be an eligible career.

An eligible career is somebody who has shared care of the child. To receive Child Support a non-parent must meet the following requirements:

  • if a parent is overseas (and the required steps have been taken for parents living overseas), or the parent has died, or
  • the applicant should not be living with or be a partner of any of the parents.

If the parent (or legal guardian) of a child indicates that they do not consent to the person caring for the child, then the non-parent carer will not be considered an eligible career. This requirement does not apply where it is unreasonable for a parent to care for a child.

It is unreasonable for a parent to care for their child when:

  • there has been extreme family breakdown or
  • there is a serious risk to the child’s physical or mental wellbeing

Who can be classified as a parent of a child?

Parents of the child include biological parents, adoptive parents and people who have become parents as a result of adoption or an artificial conception procedure.

Parentage will be presumed if:

  • the child was born during a marriage,
  • the parents lived together for a certain time before the child was born (if this applies to you, it is important to get legal advice),
  • a person is named as a parent during court action or on a birth certificate,
  • a person has signed an ‘acknowledgment of paternity’ or
  • a person has adopted the child.

A step-parent of a child cannot be the subject of an application for a Child Support Assessment, but it is possible to apply for a Court Order requiring a step-parent to provide financial support for their step-child. The court must be satisfied that the step-parent has a duty to maintain the child before it will make an order.

When does a child become ineligible for Child Support?

A child is no longer eligible when they turn 18, although they can continue to receive Child Support until the end of the school year if they are in school.

A child who is married or living in a de facto relationship is not eligible for Child Support. A child who is adopted will also no longer be eligible to receive Child Support payments.

Another exception applies where the person entitled to receive payments passes away. It is possible to specify in an order that it is to remain in force after the death of the person entitled to receive payments. The order must also specify who is to receive the payments upon the death of the person originally entitled to receive the payments.

Children who are under the care of somebody, as specified by a child welfare law, are excluded from Child Support.

What children are eligible for Child Support?

The Child Support Scheme covers all children living in Australia whose parents have separated. It does not matter whether the parents were ever in a relationship and it is not relevant whether a parent spends time with their child or not. There are arrangements with certain countries for the collection and payment of Child Support, if one of the parents live in that country.

If a child turns 18 during their last year at school then that child is eligible for child support until they complete the school year. A child who is married or living in a de facto relationship is not eligible for Child Support.

Who has a duty to support children?

Each parent has a duty to financially support their child. This duty exists, regardless of whether the parents were in a relationship and it is not relevant whether a parent spends time with their child or not.

The duty of a parent to support a child takes priority over other commitments held by parents to maintain themselves or any other person they have a duty to maintain. Upon finalisation of any Court Orders, the person applying for them must inform the Child Support Agency of any Orders made or agreements reached. A copy of the Orders or agreements must also be provided to the Child Support Agency.

The term ‘parent’ includes biological parents, adoptive parents and people who have become parents as a result of an artificial conception procedure.

Whether a parent is liable to pay child support will depend on their circumstances. A parent who has the care of a child for at least part of the time and who is not living with the other parent can apply for child support. The amount of time a parent spends with their child, can affect the amounts paid. Parents can apply for Court Orders to spend time with their child. In some circumstances another eligible person who has care of a child can apply for Child Support.

In order to receive Child Support, a parent or eligible carer needs to show they have at least shared care of the child and the other person is the natural or adoptive parent.

Where parents can agree, the Child Support Agency does not have to be involved. Agreements should be signed and in writing and can be registered with the Child Support Agency.

Some parents may prefer for the Child Support Agency to work out the amount to be paid, but the amounts can be transferred privately. Receipts for private payments made or received and should be retained.

How can I apply for a Child Support Assessment?

An application for child support is made to the Child Support Agency (CSA) which administers the Child Support Scheme. An application can be made by completing a form which is available from the CSA or Centrelink. An application can also be made online through the CSA website.

Either a parent from a marriage, a parent from a de facto (including same sex) relationship or an eligible carer can apply to have a Child Support Assessment by the Child Support Agency. Provided the formal requirements for an application are satisfied, the Child Support Agency will make an administrative assessment of Child Support called a ‘Child Support Assessment’. An Assessment Notice will usually issue several weeks later. This will tell each parent how much they are to receive/pay each month and about their rights relating to the payment/receipt of Child Support.

To obtain an indication of your likely child support obligation or entitlement, click here to access the Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists Child Support Calculator (standard calculation).

Why are the best interests of the child important?

When making any Court Orders or varying a Child Support Agreement, the court must always consider the best interests of the child.

Factors which determine whether or not arrangements are in the best interests of the child include:

  • the benefit of the child in having a relationship with both parents,
  • the need to protect the child from harm,
  • ensuring children receive adequate and proper parenting to reach their full potential and
  • ensuring that parents fulfill their duties and perform their responsibilities towards their children.

The principles underlying these objectives are that:

  • children have the right to know and be cared for by both parents,
  • children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with both parents,
  • parents jointly share duties and responsibilities for their children and
  • parents should agree about the future parenting of their children and
  • children have a right to enjoy their culture.

The lawyers at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists Melbourne have significant experience and expertise with regard to issues that affect children. Our primary goal is to minimise risk to children and ensure proper arrangements are made for their ongoing financial, physical and emotional support. Care and compassion combined with determination and expertise are required to obtain the best results.

Mathews Family Law is an Australian law firm. Please contact us on 1300 635 529 to speak with a family lawyer from our law firm today. You can also send through your enquiry online now and we will contact you shortly.