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All You Need to Know about Child Support Agreements

Family Law: 14 November 2023

Author: Phoebe Smillie, Senior Associate - Our People

It is expected in Australia that both parents have an obligation to financially support their child(ren) after a separation or divorce. Whether you are paying or receiving child support, payments can be a significant concern for parents going through a separation so it is important you understand your rights in relation to child support.

What is Child Support?

The purpose of child support is to ensure the well-being of children is properly maintained in the event of separation, and that both parents are meeting their obligations to support their child(ren) following a separation.

Often, parents will pay or receive child support payments in accordance with an assessment made by the Child Support Agency. The amount of child support which is payable is calculated using a complex formula which takes into consideration, for example, each parent’s income and the time the child(ren) spend in each parent’s respective care.

Payments made through the Child Support Agency do not take into consideration extra expenses such as school fees, extra-curricular activities and/or medical expenses or sometimes, the amount assessed by child support is not enough. In these circumstances, parents may seek to enter into a Child Support Agreement.

What is a Child Support Agreement?

A Child Support Agreement is a private agreement between parents for the provision of financial support for their children under the age of 18 (or over the age of 18 if they are still completing their secondary education).

Child Support Agreements can be tailored; however, generally parents agree to include provisions that deal with, for example:

  1. School fees and levies;
  2. Associated school expenses such as uniforms, books, computers, camps, and/or excursions;
  3. Extra-curricular expenses such as sport, music lessons and/or tutoring;
  4. Private health insurance including gap expenses, allied health, and/or dental expenses.

What are the different types of Child Support Agreements?

There are two types of Child Support Agreements:

  1. Binding Child Support Agreements; and
  2. Limited Child Support Agreements.

Binding Child Support Agreements

A Binding Child Support Agreement can only be entered into after both parties have obtained independent legal advice. It can otherwise provide for any amount of child support, either higher or lower than an amount assessed by the Child Support Agency.

Limited Child Support Agreement

The key difference between a Binding Child Support Agreement and a Limited Child Support Agreement, is that a limited child support agreement offers more flexibility and parties do not need to obtain independent legal advice before entering into one. Notwithstanding, it is always recommended that you speak with a lawyer before making an agreement.

With a limited child support assessment, there must also be a child support assessment already in place and the agreement must be for at least the same amount as under the assessment.

In addition, whilst Binding Child Support Agreements typically end when the child reaches the age of 18, a Limited Child Support Agreement can be ended if, for example:

  1. Both parties agree (in writing) to end the agreement;
  2. It has been three or more years since you made the agreement and a parent asks to end it in writing;
  3. Your income changes by more than 15% from the original child support assessment (due to circumstances not included in the agreement).

Child support can be a complex area to navigate. Our family lawyers are highly experienced in all aspects of family law and can assist you with your child support queries. Please contact a member of our family law team to discuss your options.

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