It’s a reasonable expectation that all parents should provide financial support to their children, even if they are no longer together. The Child Support Scheme assesses and collects child support payments throughout Australia, whilst making it difficult for individuals to avoid their financial obligations.
The Child Support Scheme is administered through the Child Support Agency and is a voluntary service where one parent – usually the one who the child lives with – requests the help from the Child Support Agency to collect payment.
Who can apply for child support?
Any parent of a child, or a person who is defined as an ‘eligible carer’, who has at least shared custody of the child under s 7B of the Child Support (Assessment) Act can make an application to receive child support. A person is considered to have ‘shared custody’ if they care for a child between 35-65% of the time during a 12 month period.
In order to satisfy the requirement to receive child support payments the court will consider some of the following under s 29 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act:
• when the child was born, the person was married to the other party in which child support payment is being sought
• the person’s name is on the birth certificate of the child
• the person has acknowledged the child as their own in another legal document
• a court has decided that the individual is the parent of the child
• the child has been adopted by the person
• a couple child lived with one another 44 weeks and ending 20 weeks prior to the birth of the child.
Child support payments can only be sought if the parent is living in Australia, as well as the child. If a parent is not a resident of Australia, child support payment can still be required if the individual is living in a country that has an agreement with Australia enforcing an order to pay child support (s 29A)
How is child support calculated?
Calculation of how much child support should be paid is outlined in Part 5 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act. Child support can vary due to the individual circumstances of the parties, but the basic formula takes into account the following:
• the average costs of caring for a child in Australia
• the incomes of both parents
• the parent that is the primary carer and who the child lives with
• if there are any other dependent children
• if the parent has any other child support obligations to other children.
What if the other parent doesn’t pay child support?
As with most situations relating to family law issues, the Child Support Agency will generally try to avoid legal remedies and will try to negotiate with the other parent to any payments that are owed. In the event of negotiations failing, the Child Support Agency can enforce payment through:
• debt collection
• garnishing the wages of the parent who is failing to pay
• using tax refunds for payments owed
• seizing the assets of the parent who owes child support
• preventing the parent from leaving the country until all debts relating to child support are paid off
• taking possession of any property owned until the debt has been paid.
If the parent is suspected of providing misleading, false or is using any other method to avoid child support payment, the Child Support Agency has the power to monitor the individual for proof of any violation under the Child Support (Assessment) Act.
The final option for the Child Support Agency is the initiating of legal action in the Federal Magistrates Court to enforce payment with the filing of an enforcement summons.
Financially supporting a child is a requirement that is expected by all parents.
For anyone who needs assistance, please seek legal advice.