Child support is the compulsory payments parents make to each other for their children’s expenses following a separation.

The amount of child support is determined by a complicated formula.  It is based on the number of nights’ care, the parents’ gross incomes and the ages of the children. The minimum payment is $25 per week. The maximum for one child is currently $490 per week.

To determine the sum payable, an application is made to the Department of Human Services Child Support Division.  There is a helpful online estimator on their website where parents can obtain an accurate estimate.  The Child Support Division deals with the parents and arranges for the collection and payment of child support.

There is a set percentage reduction of child support if the payer has the care of the children for between 52 and 127 nights per year.  Thereafter there is a sliding scale of reductions.  A payer can nominate to pay certain expenses directly on account of child support, such as school fees.  A parent can challenge the assessment if they claim the income statement of the other parent is not accurate or if a child has special needs, including because the child is attending private school or exceptional travel expenses

Parents can enter into their own Child Support Agreements as to what child support is payable and in what form. Such agreements can be limited agreements or can be binding if signed before independent lawyers.

The total child support over the life of a child can be in excess of $1/2M.  This can come as an unpleasant surprise if a child was not intended or expected, at least by one parent.  But there is no exemption or excuses. So unintending fathers beware.

Opinions vary on child support.  Some consider the sum is grossly inadequate whilst other feel it is exorbitant.  What can be said is that the formula was developed over a long period of time and tries to do fairness between parents and make sure they both provide equitably towards the costs of their children.  Most parents accept this and readily and willingly pay.

It is something parents need to discuss.  Changes and adjustments often need to be made to payments to take into account the needs of the children.  It is far easier to do so if the parents are cooperating for the children’s benefit and both seeing the children regularly.  It is often valuable to discuss child support issues with an experienced family lawyer.