If you have separated and have children, you may be entitled to receive financial support from the other parent for your children. Alternatively, you may be the parent responsible for providing financial support. This is known as child support.
If you are a non-parent carer, you may also be entitled to child support payments from the parents of the children that you provide care for.
Child support is usually payable until a child turns 18 or completes their secondary school education (whichever comes later). Payments can continue beyond that time for children who continue to study, or who suffer from a physical or mental disability. In these circumstances, a Court exercising family law jurisdiction can make “adult child maintenance” orders.
Am I eligible to receive child support?
You will be eligible for child support if you are the legal parent or non-parent carer of the child, and meet certain residency rules.
A child support assessment can be made by Child Support Services Australia (CSA) if both you and the other parent are living in Australia, or where one of you is living in Australia and the other is living in a reciprocating jurisdiction.
An assessment can also be made provided that:
- the parent making payment is living in Australia,
- the children are living in Australia, and
- both the parent and the children are listed as Australian residents or Australian citizens.
If you live in a reciprocating jurisdiction and wish to apply for child support, you will need to submit your application to the relevant authority in your country of residence. They will then pass your application on to CSA.
There are various options available when making arrangements for child support, which we cover in our article: Child Support: What are my options?
Do I have a responsibility to pay child support?
The obligation to pay child support lies solely with the parents of children, including adoptive parents and same sex couples in specific situations.
If you are assessed to pay child support and you are not the parent, the person who you are required to pay child support to may elect to end the CSA assessment.
If they are unwilling to end the assessment, you must apply directly to the Court for a declaration that you are not liable to pay child support. The application must be made within 56 days of you having been served with the CSA assessment, although it may be possible to apply beyond that time in limited situations. Your application and declaration will need to be supported by an Affidavit containing evidence as to why you are not the parent, and are therefore not required make child support payments.
If a declaration is made, the Court has the discretion to make orders for recovery of amounts paid under a child support assessment, or a registered maintenance liability, if it is fair in the circumstances. When making this decision, the Court will consider a number of factors, including whether the mother knew or suspected that you were not the father of the child, and any delay on your part in making the declaration application.
What can I do if the other parent is not making payments?
If you are entitled to child support and the other parent is not making payments, you can apply to CSA to have child support taken out of their salary.
CSA can also intercept and take arrears out of tax refunds.
In some situations, a paying parent who has accumulated significant child support arrears can be prevented from leaving the country until such time as the arrears have been paid.
What can I do if I can’t make a payment on time?
If there has been a change to your circumstances making it difficult for you to pay child support at the level assessed, or you have greater care of the children, it is important to notify CSA without delay to ensure that you are re-assessed to pay the right level of support.
If you fail to pay your child support obligation on time, CSA may apply late payment penalties, although there is usually scope to negotiate a repayment plan with CSA which if complied with could result in penalties being waived.
How can Sharrock Pitman Legal help?
Child support is a complex area of family and relationship law, and it is important to act quickly to ensure that your rights are not compromised. We have experience in a wide variety of child support matters and are here to help. Contact our Accredited Specialist Family Law team on 1300 205 506 for a free 15 minute no obligation phone consultation, or alternatively send us an email at email@example.com.
The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.
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For further information contact
Ath is a Senior Associate of Sharrock Pitman Legal.
She is an Accredited Specialist in Family Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria). For further information, contact Ath on her direct line (03) 8561 3319.