If you and your partner have recently separated, you may be wondering what happens regarding child support and school fees. This can mainly be a matter of interest if you have children who currently attend or wish to attend private school.
The costs associated with private schooling can be quite expensive and add up significantly when considering multiple children. Following such a separation, a common question on each parent’s mind is who pays for the school fees? And does child support include school fees?!
What Is Child Support?
Child support refers to the payment from one parent to another following separation to financially assist the other parent to cover the needs of the children and ensure they are adequately satisfied. Child support is regulated by the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) in Australia.
How Is Child Support Assessed?
The Department of Human Services utilises a Child Support Assessment formula (CSA) to calculate the amount of child support that should be paid. However, this formula is based on children attending a state school and not a private school.
The main factors considered in the formula regarding child support and school fees are:
- The number of Children
- The taxable income of both parents
- How many nights each child spends with each parent
See here for an estimate of your child support costs.
School Fees And Child Support
If both parents agree that their child or children should attend private school, the CSA will consider including a proportionate amount of the child support and school fees in a re-assessment process.
If there is no such agreement, a parent may try to vary an assessment through an internal review process via the Agency or by applying a court in particular circumstances. The parent pursuing the change can say that the child is educated in a manner both parents expected – which should be reflected in a variation to the CSA. The outcome depends on whether both parents have agreed that their child/ren should attend a private school.
The parent’s intention is often shown by the completion and signing of school enrolment forms. If both parents have agreed that school fee payments were made for child support, the situation becomes more complicated. In this instance, the amount can be credited as a third-party payment. If the parent receiving child support is not in agreement that the cost of school fees was intended to form part of the Child Support Agreement, The parent paying can still have some of this payment credited as child support as a non-agency payment in the case:
- The paying parent pays 70% of their regular monthly child support payment on time and;
- In that case, a maximum of 30% of the monthly payment can be credited towards the school fees.
Note: Only paying parents with 14% or less of the time spent with the children (regular care) can claim a non-agency payment.
What Is Regular Care?
If a parent’s level of care exceeds ‘regular care’ (14%), they cannot apply for a non-agency payment. In this case, that parent can apply to the CSA for a change of assessment. This procedure is also applicable if the costs of maintaining the child are substantially affected by the higher costs of schooling in the way that both parents intended.
In determining whether the parents agreed that the children should be educated privately, the CSA will consider:
- The financial situation of both parents
- The type of education intended by both parents for the child (rather than a particular school)
Note: the mere fact the parent paying the child support can afford to pay fees is not in itself a reason for requiring that parent to contribute to private school fees.
Do I Need To Pay For Any Additional Things Such As School Uniforms?
The short answer is no. There is no obligation by the parent paying child support to pay for these additional expenses where the Child Support Agency assesses the child support. This is because child support is designed to cover all your child’s financial requirements. Any other costs are included in this payment, and it is the parent’s duty who receives the compensation to budget the income accordingly to meet the needs of the child adequately.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
The financial consequences of a decision by the Court can impact you for the rest of your life. This is why it is important to note that when financial matters such as child support and school fees arise in a family law dispute, you seek the guidance of an experienced family lawyer to help you through the process.
Here at JB Solicitors, we’ll make the process as pain-free as possible. We have fixed-fee pricing for family law, giving you a clear sense of the costs from the start, and we will be sure to help you out every step of the way. With years of experience under our belt, we pride ourselves on making each client’s family law experience as positive as possible.
Contact JB Solicitors today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced family lawyers.
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