How to ensure your child is in the best situation: Negotiating child support

Separation can be incredibly hard, expensive and emotionally draining for both primary carers and children. Even if it is an amicable split, it is important to ensure you get a fair child support outcome that allows you and your children to live safely and securely. 

What is child support in Australia? 

Child support payments are made by one or both parents to a child’s primary carer in the case of separation. It may be made by one parent to the other, or by both parents to a third party, such as a grandparent.

Child support payments are used to cover the costs of raising and caring for a child, such as childcare, school fees, clothing, activities and medical costs. Child support agreements can be made privately, or through the Australian government.

Child support assessment 

The Child Support Agency (CSA) conducts a child support assessment to work out who should pay child support and how much should be paid.

The person who pays child support is determined as the person whose percentage of childcare is less that their share of combined income, while the person who receives child support is the parent whose care percentage is higher than their share of the combined income.

The amount the child support recipient will receive is determined based on:

  • Income
  • Time spent caring for the child
  • The age of the child
  • Child costs based on Australia spending figures

Not happy with your child support assessment result? You can request a review. Talk to your family lawyer about help with your review application.

Types of child support agreements 

There are two main types of child support agreements in Australia:

  • Child Support Agency (CSA) agreement
  • Independent child support agreements

Child Support Agency (CSA) agreement

The Child Support Agency (CSA) is part of the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Human Services. It gives parents advice on the amount of child support they are entitled to through the child support assessment. It can also collect payments from the child support payer and provide it to the payee.

This type of child support is sometimes mandatory, such as when the recipient is also receiving benefits from Centrelink.

Independent child support agreements

Parents often reach a child support agreement without involving the CSA. For example, an agreement may require a parent to pay their child’s expenses for factors such as medical expenses, school fees, childcare or sporting and activity fees.

There are two variations of child support agreements:

  • Limited child support agreement

This agreement involves a formal understanding between parents or carers without involving independent legal advice. A child support assessment must be undertaken before a limited child support agreement can be made and accepted.

This type of agreement can include cash payments, or can other types of payment such as covering medical expenses, insurance or school fees.

This agreement also calls for a rate of payment equal to or greater than the current annual payment rate laid out in the assessment.

  • Binding child support agreement

Different to the limited child support agreement, a binding child support agreement involves a written agreement between the parents or carers.

This agreement details the child support payments and must involve legal advice before both parties sign it. Both parties will need to come to a mutual understanding on the amount for the child support payments.

This amount can be more or less than the amount that would be payable under a child support assessment.

Whichever agreement you come to, it’s important to document any formalities with your former partner.

The parents or carers receiving child support payments can opt for either private collection or CSA collection. These payments should always be made by bank transfer rather than cash, to ensure that the payments are documented in case any disputes or discrepancies arise.

Negotiating child support

Whether you choose to independently come to child support arrangements or go through a government agency, it’s vital to have a legal, written agreement. Even if all parties are at an amicable stage now, that may not always be the case. A legally binding agreement will guarantee your child is in the best possible situation, and gives you peace of mind and legal remit to dispute your partner’s actions, lack of payment or other issues that may arise.

Other financial benefits for separated parents 

There are a number of financial benefits you can receive from the government to help cover the costs associated with being a single parent, including:

Family tax benefits:

If you have a dependent child or full-time secondary student aged 16-19, you may be eligible for a family tax benefit. You must care for the child at least 35% of the time as well as meeting an income test. If you meet these requirements, the family tax benefit grants a 2-part payment to assist in the expenses of raising children.

Childcare subsidy (CCS):

Childcare subsidy can assist in the cost of child care, which you may be eligible for if you care for a child aged 13 or younger who does not attend secondary school. CCS is only granted if you make use of an approved childcare service, meet immunisation and residency conditions and are responsible for paying any childcare fees.

Rent assistance:

If you already receive regular payments from the government, you may be eligible for an extra payment if you can provide evidence that you pay rent.

Child support resources

At East Coast Law Family Law, we have helped countless families negotiate the difficult but crucial waters of child maintenance negotiations. 

For more information on the importance of child maintenance and ensuring your child is in the best possible situation, download our free Child Support eBook. 

Get in touch for more information on our child support negotiation services.
Family Lawyers
1300 735 947

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