Child Support Is A Right
Children do not grow on sunshine, fresh air and water alone. They cost money to raise and grow into amazing people.
Child support is an entitlement for children aged 0 – 18 years and in a divorced/separated situation and calculated with considerations to the number of nights spent with each parent. In recent years, the matter of child support has been throughout the media. The number of parents not paying child support was rapidly increasing. Changes in legislation resulted in more parents pushing for 50% custody so they “didn’t have to pay child support” and “fund the other parent”. There was an intensifying need to spread the message that child support is for the child, not for the other parent. Minimum child support is not enough to live off and doesn’t cover the bulk of the bills required for raising a child when you consider accommodation, food, travel expenses, school fees, clothing, shoes, birthday party presents and more!
There are three options for collection of the child support funds:
- Private collections: This is where the parents exchange the necessary money by EFT, cash or cheque. If you choose the cash method, you must issue receipts so that you have a trail of proof of money received/paid so that if any money is or payments are contested you will have a written ledger to support your position. You would only exercise this option if you were relatively sure that your funds would be guaranteed and sent on a regular basis. If you have concerns with your private collections, you would have to take a legal stance to obtain the funds.
- Private Agency collection (PAC): A lawyer once said that PACs are not widely mentioned because PACs work to their own standards and it is often in the favour of the parent having to pay child support (and often comes at the suggestion of this parent). Another lawyer who used to work for Child Support Australia once said, “there are no such things as PAC.” The PAC is not able to engage other government agencies assistance if necessary and does not adjust Child Support payments to the income. It is recommended that prior to using a PAC, you do thorough research and ensure you make the most informed decision possible.
- Child Support Australia (CSA): CSA is your more reliable, fair option for collecting funds. CSA communicates payments to both parents. It collects the funds from one parent and distributes it to the other parent. CSA is permitted by the government to take recourse if a parent is in arrears; including following up outstanding payments, automatically debiting accounts and taking actions to stop a parent in arrears from overseas travel. CSA also liaises with other government agencies to ensure that collections regularly happen. When engaging CSA, they can collect three months prior to the date of engagement, provided that the child support is in arrears. The first time CSA is approached to collect child support, CSA will agree. However, if you choose to start/stop/start/stop using the service, then CSA may decline your case. CSA keeps child support and associated stresses out of your daily, weekly, monthly life.
Child Support assessments can be one of two ways:
- Child Support Australia assessments: calculated on a standardised formula of each parent’s income, the number of nights the child spends with each parent and offers a provision for basic living expenses to each parent. Assessments are regularly adjusted or rolled every three months. CSA has access to the ATO and can adjust child support amounts based on tax returns for the previous financial year. CSA expects both parents to advise change of circumstances (living arrangements, children, access and income) within 14 days. You can have CSA collect based on private agreement. If a dispute arises regarding assessment, a case officer is allocated and the situation investigated.
- Binding child support agreement (BCSA) is a private agreement between both parents in conjunction with their lawyers regarding the amount of child support payable. It may be above or below the CSA assessment and approved by both parents. The parents must deem the agreement to be fair and reasonable. Like court orders, a BCSA does not end and has to either be replaced or court ordered cessation.
There are a couple of exceptions to the age rule for child support:
- Children over 18 years who have a disability and are dependent on their parents ongoing support and children over 18 years seeking further education, may also be entitled to child support. The circumstances are limited and must be ordered by the court. Once a court order has been made for ongoing child support/maintenance, CSA will be able to assist with collections and transfers.
- Children (under 18 years old) earning an income may not be eligible to receive child support. Pleas seek further advice for your individual circumstances.
- Parents living or relocating overseas may also be liable for child support. Australia is aligned with a number of countries and is authorised to collect and distribute child support. This will occur through the assistance of CSA.
Child support is a complex issue. It is strongly recommended that you contact CSA directly to discuss your individual circumstances, entitlements and options.