Child Support Solicitors
One of the factors that can cause anxieties to both parents when separating is the ongoing financial maintenance of their children.
Child support is administered by a Commonwealth Government entity called the Child Support Agency. (The Agency)
Child Support Assessment
Upon separation, either parent may ask the Agency to prepare a child support assessment. This will be based upon the income disclosed in tax returns filed by both parents.
In assessing the level of child support each parent is liable for, the Child Support Agency will look at the following factors:
The incomes of both parents – This information is typically obtained from the most recently lodged tax returns of each parent.
The amount of time the children spend with each parent
The ages of the children
The formulas for calculating the child support are complex, and the results vary from one family to another.
If either parent disagrees with the assessment he or she may have the assessment reviewed by the Agency. If parties have undertaken the review process within the Agency, but are not satisfied with the result, parties are entitled to take their matter to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. The Social Security Appeals Tribunal is a free service which is completely independent of the Child Support Agency. It is important to recognise that there are strict time limits in relation to making an application to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. Parties who wish to undertake this course of action should obtain legal advice as soon as they receive an adverse decision from the Child Support Agency. Also, in some circumstances, disputes about child support can be linked with Court proceedings between the parents in the Federal Magistrates Court or the Family Court.
Child Support Agreements
Parents may decide to enter into a private agreement in relation to child support. In some cases these agreements can be made into agreements that are binding on both parties. Agreements might be in relation to the amount of child support paid, things that can be purchased as opposed to cash payments, or lump sums that can be paid instead of regular payments. Parties who wish to enter into a binding child support agreement are required to seek independent legal advice before doing so as it is important that these documents are drafted in a manner which is acceptable to the Child Support Agency. Once completed, these documents may be lodged with the Child Support Agency and the payments or arrangements outlined in the agreement are enforceable against the parties.
Common Areas of Dispute
It is not uncommon for complications to arise in relation to individuals who work for themselves, or who are a beneficiary under a trust, company, or other entity.
It is also commonplace for issues to arise in relation to parties who have legitimately reduced their income for taxation purposes.
Issues such as this can be complex in the context of child support, and suspicion often runs high.
We recommend to separating parents that they take advice in relation to child support expectations at the earliest possible time so as to minimize the stress this area can have on individuals, and their ongoing relationship with the other parent.