Child Support : Avoiding Conflict
One of the most stressful issues to settle following a separation or divorce is often that of child support: how much financial support a child needs from each parent, and how it will be paid.
Many parents dread the thought of negotiating financial issues with their ex spouse or partner and a lot of people may have heard 'horror stories' about people allegedly rorting the child support system. Unfortunately, the actions of a few individuals can reflect badly on the many, many parents who are simply trying to do the right thing by their children and it certainly doesn't have to be that bad.
How child support works
The aim of child support is to ensure that the children of separated parents receive the financial support that both parents are responsible for providing. The issue is so important that the government formed the Child Support Agency, a special division of the Department of Human Service, to administer the system.
Generally speaking, there are two main ways for parents to work out what their child support obligations will be:
1. Through a child support assessment by the Child Support Agency
2. Through a Child Support Agreement
Child Support Assessments
Many parents choose to apply to the Child Support Agency (CSA) for a formal child support assessment. The application can be made by either the parent with whom the child lives, or the 'non-custodial' parent.
When an application is made, the CSA calculates the amount payable, and then there is an obligation for the paying parent to pay that amount to the other parent.
Under this approach, parents will usually liaise directly with the CSA on all matters regarding payment and assessment. The CSA can also collect the money directly through the paying parent's salary or wages if this is the most appropriate way, or if there is any concern over payment.
Child Support Agreements
Child Support Agreements allow parents to reach their own agreement on the amount of child support to be paid. Theses agreements allow parents to be more flexible with their arrangements and take into account additional payments that might cover items such as private school fees or health insurance for example.
There are two main types of Child Support Agreements:
i. Limited Child Support Agreements
A limited child support agreement is a written agreement between the two parties that must signed by both parents. The amount to be paid under the agreement should be the same as, or more than, a notional assessment of the child support by the CSA.
A limited agreement will end if:
* a Court makes different orders regarding child support
* the parents make and sign a new agreement
* the notional assessment of child support made by the CSA changes by more than 15%
* one of the parent's provides notice in writing that they wish to end the agreement (after a period of three years).
ii. Binding Child Support Agreements
Binding child support agreements must also be in writing and signed by both parents. However, they are different to limited agreements in that the parents must both seek independent legal advice before they enter into, or end, the agreements.
A binding agreements can be for any amount of child support the parties agree upon, and can include lump sum payments (including the transfer of property). This form of agreement can only end when a new binding agreement is made, or if a Court makes orders concerning the amount of child support payable.
We recommend that before you sign any written agreement about Child Support, whether prepared by you and your ex-partner or by your ex-partner’s solicitor, you seek legal advice about the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed agreement.
What should you do?
When a family breaks down and parents separate, it is always best to speak to a lawyer and learn about your rights and your obligations. At Lamrocks we can provide advice as to the best options for you and your family, ones that will not only minimise the stress you are facing now but also the potential for conflict in the future.
For more information on child support contact one of our experienced family lawyers on ph: 02 4731 5688.