Child support can be a difficult issue and can sometimes place a strain on the ongoing parenting relationship for separated parents. Understanding the process can help to ease the stress and confusion surrounding this issue.
The Child Support Agency is responsible for assessing the amount of child support payable according to a formula. The two main factors considered in the assessment are the income of each parent and the care arrangements for the children.
Objecting to the Child Support Agency Assessment
Either party is able to object to the assessment of the Child Support Agency.
In order to object to an assessment, you need to lodge an objection with the Agency and provide information to support your objection. A Review Officer will then undertake an internal review, and contact both parents before making a decision about whether or not to vary the assessment.
If after the internal review has occurred and you are still not satisfied with the decision, there is the option to apply to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal for a further review or variation of your assessment. However, the grounds for such appeal are limited and there are time frames for bringing the application. You should seek legal advice about this quickly, so you have time to appeal.
If both parents have agreed that the children are to attend a private school, you may be able to seek an increase in the amount of child support you receive to cover a share of the school fees.
Alternatively, if you are paying the private school fees as well as the assessed child support, you may be able to have these fees taken into account in the Agency’s assessment.
Parents are also able to reach agreement themselves about the appropriate amount of child support that suits their circumstances. For example, some parents may agree that one parent is to pay private school fees in lieu of a weekly amount of child support.
If an agreement is reached for the payment of child support between parents, this is able to be documented in a private agreement. There are legal requirements that need to be satisfied when entering into a Child Support Agreement, so you should seek legal advice about your specific situation before deciding about what to do.
Given the ongoing nature of child support, this can cause issues between separated parents. However getting legal advice early and understanding the system and your rights and obligations can help to resolve child support issues, and let you focus on the most important thing – parenting your children.