The role of the Child Support Agency (CSA) is to administer a scheme which ensures that children receive adequate financial support from both parents following separation. The CSA can assist with calculating how much child support should be paid and, if necessary, facilitate the collection and transfer of child support payments. When a parent makes an application to the CSA for an administrative assessment of child support, the CSA will calculate the amount payable using a formula set out in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth). The formula is used to calculate each parent’s contribution towards the cost of raising a child, based on the parents’ financial ability and percentage of care. A parent may object to an assessment, by writing to the CSA, outlining their reasons for objecting. The CSA will then provide a copy of your objection to the other parent and give them the opportunity to respond in addition to seeking further information from either parent or other sources. If a parent does not agree with the outcome, following their objection, there is a further avenue of review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and a limited right of appeal from a decision of the Tribunal to the Family Court of Western Australia, on a question of law.
Instead of applying to the CSA for an assessment, parents can reach an agreement between themselves about how much child support is to be provided and in what form. There are two types of formal private agreements, binding child support agreements and limited child support agreements, both of which must be in writing and signed by both parents. To enter into a binding child support agreement both parties are required to have received independent legal advice whereas this is not a requirement to enter into a limited child support agreement. However, if you are considering entering into a private, written agreement in relation to child support, it is important to seek independent legal advice to ensure you understand the differences between binding and limited child support agreements, the terms of the agreement you are entering into and the implications of those terms on you, prior to signing. Your solicitor will also be able to assist with registering the agreement and ensuring it will be enforceable.
The Family Court of Western Australia
The Family Court is only able to make orders in limited circumstances in relation to child support. Applications can be made to the court for an order which departs from the existing child support assessment in circumstances where the court is in the process of hearing a separate family law matter of the parents and where there are ‘special circumstances’ as required under the legislation. Before making any order in relation to child support the Court must be satisfied of a number of matters, including that the making of an order is ‘just and equitable’ in the circumstances of the case. The Court can otherwise assist parents with matters about paternity, adult child maintenance, applications in relation to the setting aside of private child support agreements or the enforcement of arrears. To discuss the best option for your particular circumstances and obtain advice as to your rights and entitlements, please telephone Leach Legal on 9486 9733 to book your initial consultation.