If you have applied for child support, or if you have recently divorced or separated and wondering if you should apply for child support, you must be curious as to what child support covers in Australia.
This article aims to explore the meaning of child support, and what child support covers in Australia.
Before we proceed with what child support covers, let’s first see what exactly is child support? Child support is the financial support payments which are made to ensure all the financial needs of the child are taken care of following the breakdown of a marriage or relationship.
These payments are usually made by one party to the other party (the primary carer of the child) to assist with all expenses which arise while taking care of the child.
Child support payments are made until the child turns 18 years of age. Services Australia and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 handle matters related to child support. The Department of Human Services (DHS) makes assessments of child support applications under the Child Support Assessment Act 1989.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
What child support covers is largely dependent upon how the child support payments are calculated in your case. As mentioned above, one way these are calculated is by DHS assessments where they use a formula to determine how much payments are to be made.
Some of the factors considered when making assessments include:
- The number of children
- The ages of the children
- The amount of money required for parents to support themselves
- The amount of money each parent earns
- The amount of time each parent spends in caring for the child
Secondly, child support payments can be also be determined when the two parties have private discussion among themselves.
When Are Child Support Payments Stopped?
Child support is usually paid until the child turns 18 years of age. However, there are certain other reasons why child support payments can stop. These include:
- If the child gets married or enters a de facto relationship;
- If the child stops living under the care of either parent;
- If the child is adopted by another person or persons;
- If the child passes away;
- If the paying parent moves to a county where child support payments are not enforced;
- If the receiving parents elects to stop receiving the payments
What Child Support Covers?
Broadly, the answer to the question of what child support covers is as follows:
- Payments for extra-curricular engagements of the child
Usually, the parent who receives more income and/or spends less amount of time with the child/ren will be the payer, and the primary carer of the child is the payee.
When the DHS makes assessments, it also provides a report detailing how the payments are to be made which are usually in the form of lump sum payments. However, sometimes the paying party may be making payments to third parties during a specified time period.
These additional payments – called non-agency payments and prescribed payments – may also be credited towards the total amount that the paying parent needs to pay.
Non-agency payments can be in the form of non-monetary payments such as providing a service, or transferring ownership of property. These type of payments can be made either directly from the paying parent to the receiving parent, or to a third party on behalf of the receiving parent.
For these payments to be credited towards child support payments, the DHS must be satisfied that both parties were in agreement that this parent was made towards child support liability.
In cases where the paying parent pays less that 14 percent of childcare responsibilities, certain ‘prescribed expenses’ may apply. These expenses include:
- School uniforms and textbooks
- Housing expenses including rent payments, or mortgage payments or rental bonds
- Child care payments
- Medical and dental expenses
- School fees
- Motor vehicle costs
What Child Support Covers: Private Agreements
As mentioned above, without involving the DHS to determine what child support covers, there are certain private agreements which can account for additional expenses. These additional expenses include private school fees, private health insurance payments, and any specific medical costs which are made to meet ‘specific’ needs of the child.
One type of private agreement is the Limited Child Support Agreement which is meant for shorter timeframes where the divorce or separation was more amicable. Generally, for such agreements payments need to be made for short-terms – for instance, up to three years.
The second type of private agreement is the Binding Child Support Agreement. Importantly, the difference between the two is that a Binding Child Support Agreement has strict legal terms and conditions which need to be met.
An important requirement for Binding Child Support Agreement is that both parties will need to seek independent legal advice before entering into such an agreement.
Importance Of Seeking Legal Advice
This article has briefly explained what child support covers. In some instances, the paying parent may find that unfair child support assessments have been made. In such situations it is especially important to get legal advice on how you can make applications to the DHS notifying them about the unfair assessments.
Moreover, if you and your former spouse have agreed to enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement, each of you will need to gain independent legal advice. Family lawyers can also help chalk out the agreement such that both parties are satisfied.
At JB Solicitors, our experienced team of family solicitors has the experience of dealing with all divorce-related matters. Because child support is very important, it is recommended that you speak to an experienced lawyer who can give you high-quality legal advice.
We offer fixed-fee pricing for divorce and family law to give you a clear sense of your legal costs from the start. Each of our lawyers support each other in getting all our clients’ matters resolved.
Contact our friendly and experienced team today.