If you’re going through a separation or divorce, you’ve most likely already thought about child support. That is if you have children, of course. So, if you have questions about child support, like “how does it work?”, just keep reading.
When a marriage or relationship crumbles, a typical concern is the welfare of the children of that newly broken family. Contrary to popular belief, child support is not the right of the parent receiving the payment. It’s the child’s right, even though it goes directly to the parent.
This blog will educate and answer any questions you have concerning child support.
What is Child Support?
Child Support is a periodic payment by a parent specifically for the financial benefit of a child. This payment is made in the event of a breakdown of a marriage or such union.
Australian law is very concerned about both parents fulfilling their financial obligation to their children even after a separation or divorce.
The essence of child support is to provide financially for the cost of raising and caring for the child. It exists to ensure that the welfare and best interests of the child are not neglected.
In child support, there is the payer parent and the carer. The payer parent is the one who pays the child support. While the carer or payee parent is the parent who receives child support.
After a divorce or separation, the parents can implement a private agreement as to child support if they are amicable. However, if there is animosity and they cannot reach an agreement, the law will step in.
Such matters in Australia are typically handled by the Child Support Agency (CSA). It is this agency that carries out the administrative assessment to determine how much child support the payer parent is to pay. This assessment would cover the number of children, their needs and ages. The agency will also consider a parent’s earnings, financial obligations and living expenses.
When Does Child Support Stop?
Typically, child support payments stop once the child becomes 18 years old. However, if by 18, the child is still in high school, an application can be made to extend payments till the end of the school year.
Nonetheless, in exceptional circumstances, child support can end, and child maintenance will begin. Both terms are commonly erroneously used interchangeably. However, they are two different concepts and are not synonymous.
Is Child Support the same as Child Maintenance?
The simple answer to this is no. Child support is not the same Child Maintenance.
Child Support is basically financial support for a child that is under 18 years of age. Child Maintenance, on the other hand, is financial support for a child that has passed the age of 18. A person over 18 is no longer a child, so the child support legislation is no longer applicable.
For a court to give an order of child maintenance, it must have found it necessary. This necessity may be because the child is mentally infirm, disabled or requires care. And even if the child became ill after attaining the age of 18, the Court may still grant a child maintenance order.
However, it should be noted that child support and child maintenance are governed by the Federal Department of Human Services. This is in accordance with Part VII of the Family Law Act of Australia 1975. The statute provides that in making a parenting order, the child’s best interests are of the highest importance.
Claiming Child Support
Child support can only be collected by the legal parent or non-parent carer of the child.
The Australian Government, through Services Australia, can collect and transfer child support payments to the carer. This is only possible after one of two things. Either the CSA has made a child support assessment, or the parents have signed a child support agreement.
In some cases, the Court may order the payment of child support. In such cases, Child Support Collect may also be used.
The Child Support Collect will set the payment order and collect payments from the payer parent. After that, it transfers payments to the payee parent.
These payments may be weekly, fortnightly, monthly or yearly. It’s left to the payer to decide. The payer also chooses the payment method.
What Happens When a Parent Refuses To Pay Child Support?
Where a parent refuses to pay overdue child support payments, the Australian Government through Services Australia will enforce payments. Penalties may be added to the amount owed.
Criminal litigation may also be initiated against the defaulting payer. The Government can even go as far as issuing overseas travel bans.
They could also contact the employer or bank to make account deductions automatically from the payer’s account. Services Australia could intercept tax refunds or make deductions from the payer’s income.
Disputing Child Support
Under rare circumstances, an assessment by the CSA may be challenged. This could happen because:
- The entire facts have not been considered
- Incorrect or outdated information was used
- There was a misapplication of the law
- Certain important details were missing
The disagreeing parent would submit a written Objection Form which the CSA will review. When completing this form, they must include their reasons for objecting as well as evidence to support the objection.
It’s important to note that the objecting parent has a time limit to make this objection. They must do so within 28 days of receiving the child support order. However, if they’re abroad, this time limit is extended to 90 days.
Contact an Experienced Newcastle Family Lawyer
Child Support issues can prove to be more complex than you may think. As such, it is always advisable to have a family lawyer beside you through the entire process.
At Clarity Lawyers, our team of experienced family lawyers represent parents in Newcastle on both sides of any child support proceedings. We understand how vital these payments can be to the parent with custody. We also know how much of a burden an unfair child support award can be to the payer parent.
We make it our priority to ensure that our clients receive fair treatment. For assistance with any child support issues, contact us today. Our family lawyers are ready to answer your questions about Australian child support laws.