Both parents need to help pay for their children’s food, housing, clothes and other expenses.
The money paid by one parent to the other is called child support.
The Child Support Agency (CSA) is the government office that looks after child support payments. They use a mathematical formula to work out how much child support should be paid. This formula considers things such as:
how many children each parent is supporting
the children’s ages
how much it will cost to raise the children (based on the combined income of both parents)
each parent’s income
how much time the children spend with each parent
If these things change, you need to tell the CSA so that they can change the amount.
CSA can collect child support payments from one parent to give to the other.
CSA assessments affect the amount of Family Tax Benefit that you will receive from Centrelink.
Read letters from the CSA carefully, or ask for them to be explained. You should make notes of any conversations with the Child Support Agency. You can call the Child Support Agency on 131 272.
Rather than using the Child Support formula, you and the other parent can reach your own agreement about child support. This agreement can decide:
How much child support you receive;
What way you receive the child support (for example, in a weekly or monthly deposit, or by one parent paying the entire costs for school fees etc.)
You should get legal advice before you made this agreement.
There are 2 different types of legally binding child support agreements:
A Limited Child Support Agreement
This type of agreement can only be made if you have already had a child support fornula assessment made by the Child Support Agency. It must be either equal to or higher than the amount assessed under that formula by the Child Support Agency.
You can make this type of agreement without getting legal advice, but it is always a good idea to get legal advice before you make any type of agreement.
A Binding Child Support Agreement
This is a written and signed agreement that is only legally binding after each parent has obtained legal advice from a lawyer. It is not possible for one lawyer to advise both parents on the same agreement.
This agreement can be for an amount that is less than the Child Support Agency formula calculates.
You should think carefully before agreeing to such an agreement.
Your Centrelink benefit is not increased to cover the smaller child support amount that you have agreed to. Your benefit is assessed as if you receive the full amount under the CSA formula.
The Family Tax Benefit (A) is paid at the same amount as if you were receiving the full amount under the CSA formula.
You may find that you are receiving much less income than you are entitled to usually under a Limited Agreement or the CSA formula. This is very important for people who rely on their Centrelink Benefit or Family Tax Benefit (A).
Binding agreements are binding! You can only end a binding agreement by making an application to a Court, and only if the Court agrees to end the binding agreement.
For more details, see Child Support – More Info.
Disclaimer: This information is a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem you should consult a lawyer.
It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia. The information contained in this publication is current at 1 January 2014.