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Child and Parenting Matters

Resolving parenting matters involving Child Support and Child Custody can often be the most difficult aspect of a separation or divorce. The laws around parenting matters in Australia are highly complex, adding stress and uncertainty on top of an already emotionally traumatic experience for parents and children alike.
Mediation is now compulsory in parenting matters. Parties must attempt mediation before they can commence court proceedings, with exceptions in circumstances of urgency and/or family violence.
Wherever possible, parents should try to resolve parenting matters outside of court, to minimise the expense and stress for everyone involved and ensure the matter is dealt with as quickly as possible.
Parents looking for guidance on their obligations or entitlements, or legal advice on how to best arrange fair and legally binding support and custody solutions for their children should seek an experienced family law solicitor.
East Coast law have a team of highly experienced family law solicitors, specialising in child support and child custody, ready to assist individuals and families in Newcastle, Toukley, Maitland, Edgeworth & Port Macquarie.

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Child Support Lawyers

Child support or child maintenance is a confusing and complex topic for separating or divorced parents. To minimise stress, financial issues, and maintain goodwill between ex-partners, it is important that all parties understand their rights and obligations.

Who pays and who can claim child support?

Under Australian Family Law, all parents must contribute to financially supporting their child(ren). A parent must contribute to the costs of raising their child regardless of the type of relationship they had with their ex-partner (married, de facto, or no relationship).

You are considered a parent under Australian law where you are a biological parent, or where a child has been adopted or born through artificial insemination. Where the biological paternal relationship is disputed for child support payments, a DNA test may be required.
A parent, grandparent, family member, or legal guardian, may claim child support where they care for the child at least 35% of the time over a 12 month period and are not otherwise in a relationship with either of the child’s parents.

What are the options for child support?

Separated parents often argue about the level of financial support the non-residential parent is to contribute towards the living expenses and well-being of the children of the relationship. In general, there are 2 ways this issue can be resolved:
  1. Have the amount of support calculated by the Child Support Agency (CSA). The CSA is able to provide advice to parents as to the level of child support payable as assessed by the agency and is also able to collect the assessed payments. Sometimes assessment and collection of child support payments by the CSA is mandatory, for example, if the residential parent is in receipt of Centrelink benefits.
  2. Limited or Binding Child Support Agreements. Parents may reach their own agreement about the payment of child support without the involvement of the CSA and have it formalised through a Limited Child Support Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement.
  3. There are legal rights and obligations attached to these agreements, and certain steps must be undertaken to ensure the agreement is legally binding and enforceable. If you are considering entering into a Child Support Agreement you should obtain quality legal advice at an early stage.

Trusted legal advice, experienced representation

It may be necessary to seek legal advice in relation to an assessment of child support made by the Child Support Agency (CSA). Whether you’re the payee or the payer, it is not uncommon for parents to dispute the level of child support assessed and/or the manner in which the assessment has been calculated. 

The CSA has a set procedure for review (and sometimes further review) of an assessment. If you are unhappy with or believe the assessment made by the CSA is not fair, speak to our experienced child support lawyers about the review process before completing the documents associated with a review application.

For parents looking to reach their own child support agreement, our expert legal team offers experienced and measured legal guidance and representation in the mediation and/or negotiation process. We will ensure you understand your obligations or entitlements and once all parties are satisfied, ensure the document becomes legally binding and enforceable by law.

Court action regarding child support is fairly restricted and there are specific steps that must be followed. Child Support legislation is lengthy and somewhat complex. If in doubt as to your child support obligations or entitlements it is prudent to contact our Family Law Solicitors for advice.
For more information or to discuss how our team can assist you with any child custody or other parenting matters, please contact us for a free consultation.

Child Custody Lawyers

The safety, welfare, and best interests of the children affected are always the top priority for our team in matters of child custody. We understand that children are often the greatest concern for a parent going through a separation or divorce and take the responsibility of representing their interests very seriously.

Taking child custody matters to court

Family Mediation or Dispute Resolution, is now compulsory in parenting matters. Parties must attempt mediation before they can commence court proceedings. There are exceptions to compulsory mediation in circumstances of urgency and/or family violence.

If the matter remains unresolved after mediation is attempted, the Mediator will issue a section 60 I certificate. This is a certificate referred to in section 60 I of the Family Law Act, 1975. The issue of the certificate then allows a party to commence court action to obtain parenting orders.

A parent, grandparent, family member, or legal guardian, may claim child support where they care for the child at least 35% of the time over a 12 month period and are not otherwise in a relationship with either of the child’s parents.
Sometimes in parenting court proceedings, the court will appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer (“ICL”). This is a Solicitor appointed to represent the interests of the children. The ICL’s legal costs are met by Legal Aid NSW, although the court can in some circumstances, order the parties to contribute to the costs of the ICL.
The court may also order the preparation of a Family Report (prepared by one of the Court’s Family Consultants) or a report by an expert psychiatrist or psychologist.

Parenting court proceedings may take up to two (2) years (sometimes more) to be determined by the court on a final basis. Parties are encouraged throughout the process to reach an agreement to ensure their children’s best interests are served and the impact of the court process and parents conflict is lessened as much as possible.

Often drug use, mental health issues and domestic violence are present in contested parenting matters. These additional elements to the matter need specific attention. Realistic, honest and empathetic advice and representation from an experienced child custody lawyer are required.

Child Protection

Care and protection relates to proceedings before the Children’s Court NSW regarding the Children and Young Persons, (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

Where a parent(s) is deemed unable to look after their children themselves or provide adequate care and protection for their children, the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) may intervene to remove the children from the parent or parents care.

If this happens to you, you will be involved in proceedings before the Children’s Court. Care proceedings are very complex and it is important you obtain proper legal representation. It is important your Solicitor advises you in relation to all aspects of your care and protection matter and represents your best interests at Court.
Court proceedings in care matters may be conducted privately or with a grant of Legal Aid depending on individual circumstances.
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