No matter the parents’ relationship status, it’s important for the children to be supported by both parents. This means that both parents pay child support regardless of who has primary care of the child. The level of care each parent gives the child affects the amount you pay. However, this can be a tricky process. It’s very possible you might find yourself needing to apply for a child support assessment.
When it comes to child support in Australia, you have the option to either make your own arrangement with your ex-partner or to make payments directly through the Child Support Agency. This is a federal group that navigates these situations on behalf of families. To adjust the amount either parent pays, you’ll need to undergo what’s called a child support assessment. Keep reading to learn how to apply for a child support assessment in easy steps anyone can follow.
Who Is Required to Pay Child Support?
To begin, it’s important to understand how child support works. This can be unclear, and it leads to a lot of confusion. While there are many things to consider when separating finances after a breakup or divorce, things are especially challenging when you have a child in the mix.
Both parents are responsible for the financial support of his or her children until the child becomes a legal adult (age 18). This is true even if one or both of the parents remarry or enter a new relationship. In some cases, child support might be extended past the 18th birthday to finish a final school year or if the child requires ongoing medical care.
Child support can also go to a non-parent carer who can show he or she gives care at least 128 days per year. This is also true if you’re named a legal guardian at any point. Parents or guardians are eligible for child support if he or she:
- Was married to the other parent at the child’s birth
- Is named on the birth certificate
- Is on the adoption paperwork as a parent
- Is a male who lived with the child’s mother between 20 and 24 weeks before the birth of the child
- Qualifies as a parent under the Family Law Act 1975
If you’re not sure whether you or another parent are a good fit for child support payments, contact your local department of family services. It could also help to contact a family lawyer for more specific assistance dealing with an ex-partner’s finances.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
Next, how does the Child Support Agency calculate the financial responsibilities of each parent? In a perfect world, this would be figured out individually by each co-parent without involving the Agency. Of course, things aren’t always that easy. In that case, the agency uses these factors:
- Each parent’s income
- Each parent’s living expenses (rent, mortgage, utilities, etc.)
- Each parent’s percentage of care
- The child’s living costs
Determining the level of care can be tricky. This is defined legally as the amount of time a specific parent cares for the child. Shared care is anywhere from 35-65%. Any parent who provides primary care (over 65% of care) is not required to pay child support to the other parent.
Steps to Apply for a Child Support Assessment
If you think you’re the right fit for a child support assessment, you can easily apply online. It’s a relatively simple process following the steps below.
- Consider if you’re eligible for child support.
- Create your Self Service account through Services Australia
- Fill out the Application for Child Support Assessment
- Submit any additional documents through your online account
- Wait for a final decision
Remember, both parents have a right to object to any child support decisions. That means you can appeal any decision and so can your ex-partner. It’s helpful to keep open lines of communication with your ex, as well as to keep accurate track of your spending and expenses. You can always check in with your request online using your Child Support account.
In some cases, you might be able to collect child support from a parent who lives outside of Australia. While this is more challenging, there are resources available through Services Australia designed for these situations. All parents deserve a financial situation that supports their family.
Get the Child Support You Need
Whether you’re applying to lower your child support or get more funds to pay for your family’s expenses, don’t let the process intimidate you. It’s easier than ever to access your options online through Services Australia.
Family finances are often complicated, but they don’t have to be. The more you understand your options, the easier it is to take charge of your financial wellness. Contact the members of the Debt Buster team today on 1300 368 322 for help starting your own financial journey.