Child support is a payment between parents, to assist with the cost of raising their children.
Child support can be paid privately or through the Child Support Agency (“CSA”) which is a Commonwealth Government Agency with links to the Australian Taxation Office to allow for information sharing. If child support is paid privately, it may be a casual arrangement or by way of a Child Support Agreement, which may be registered with the CSA.
Carers who receive a government pension MUST apply for child support. Carers who do not receive a pension have the option of whether or not to do this.
Studies have been done about the costs of raising children and the CSA recognise that raising children costs different amounts for different people, based on the parents combined child support income, number of children and children’s ages. As anyone who has children knows, it is expensive to raise a child, and estimates of the cost of one child range from $200 per week to $400 per week. However, the amount of child support paid to carers is rarely anything like that.
The CSA uses a basic 8 step formula which incorporates - each parent’s child support income, the parents’ combined income, each parent’s income percentage, each parent’s percentage of care of the children, each parent’s child support percentage, the costs of the children, and then using the costs of children table, the child support amount is calculated.
If a paying parent is on a pension or extremely low income, they will still be required to make a payment, of an extremely low sum.
Parents can work out their own child support arrangements, and they should, but unfortunately many don’t. They spend the lifetime of the children counting the nights the children live with them and making complaints to the CSA about the other parent concealing income and/or wasting the child support. Unfortunately Child Support will never be a happy topic as those who pay it say they pay too much, that is it spent unwisely or they have no say in how it is spent. Those who receive it, in general, say it is not enough, never thinking about the difference even a small amount would make to their children, even if it is being able to buy tuck shop once in a while or to be able to have the same sort of shoes as the other kids in their class.
The CSA will consider applications by parents who think either that they are paying too much or that the other parent is paying too little. For “extras” like the cost of private schooling or extracurricular activities, the CSA will look to the arrangements before the parents separated.
Mediation services such as Uniting Care Community or Relationships Australia can help parents resolve arrangements for their children, including child support. Pippa Colman & Associates can provide further assistance if issues cannot be resolved through mediation.