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What business women need to know about child support

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When you are a busy woman — with a career or company to also look after — the last thing you need is to get enmeshed in a tangle of questions about child support. For separating or divorcing couples, figuring out the arrangements can be a difficult process. However, if you approach it with the same business mind you apply to your career or start-up, you will find it fairly simple to navigate.

In this article, we answer some frequently asked questions as to who pays the support, how it is calculated — and whether the assessment covers private school fees. All parents have an obligation to financially support their children even if they never married or never lived together. Of course, understanding the basics of the child support system is also very helpful in working towards an arrangement both parents are happy with.

What is child support?

Child support is an amount of money transferred between separated parents to help with the financial cost of raising their child/children. Payments can be transferred privately between parents by agreement, or the parents can ask the Department of Human Services to collect the money on their behalf.

When is child support payable?

A parent can make an application for support and it will be payable when:

  • the child’s parents do not live together on a genuine domestic basis;
  • the child is under 18 years of age;
  • the child is not a member of a couple;
  • the child is a resident of Australia or, the child and the parent eligible to receive child support are residents of a country from a reciprocating jurisdiction.

Section 7A of the Child Support Assessment Act defines a child support period as one which starts on the beginning of the day on which an application is properly made, or an agreement is accepted by the Registrar or otherwise agreed to.

This means that if both parties do not apply for a Child Support Assessment and there is no agreement otherwise, they will not receive ‘backdated’ support.

If a parent receiving support wishes to change something in an existing assessment, they have 18 months to do so or will otherwise have to apply to the Court for leave.

Who pays for it?

When a parent applies for support, the Department assesses both parents with respect to the costs of the child. The amount payable is calculated using one of 6 formulas. To calculate a Child Support Assessment, the Department takes into account:

  • the parents’ incomes;
  • the percentage of nights the child spends with each parent each year;
  • the percentage of the child’s costs for which each parent is responsible based on their care of the child; and
  • the costs of the child.

You can review the formulas used to calculate support and the cost of the child by reading the “Child Support Guide” on the Department’s website www.humanservices.gov.au(.)

It is likely that one parent will be required to pay support where

  • the other parent is the primary carer of the child; and/or
  • that parent’s income is more than the other parent’s income.

Is the other parent required to pay private school fees?

When calculating a Support Assessment, the Department does not usually take private school fees into account.

However, a parent can agree with each other and enter into an agreement to pay these fees, or may be able to seek that a Family Law Court determine the dispute. In some circumstances the parent may also wish to apply to the Department for a change of assessment in special circumstances. There are 7 reasons listed on the special circumstances form which can also be found on the Department’s website.

How do I apply for child support?

You can make an application for support after separation by contacting the Department by phone, completing and lodging the form online, or completing and mailing or faxing the application to the Department. If you need assistance in negotiating a private arrangement, we can also assist you to do so.

About Sherlene Heng

Sherlene Heng is a Senior Associate in the Family team at Swaab Attorneys. She is on the website here and LinkedIn here .

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