Child maintenance is financial support that a non-custodial parent is required to pay to the custodial parent to contribute to the child's living expenses. In Australia, child support is regulated by the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. This article aims to provide an overview of the child maintenance system in Australia, focusing on the process of applying for, assessing, and receiving child maintenance payments.
The Child Support Scheme is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and is designed to ensure that children receive an appropriate level of financial support from both parents. The Scheme applies to all parents, whether married, separated, divorced, or never married.
Applying for Child Support
Registration: The first step in the process is to register with the Department of Human Services. You can register by completing an online application on the DHS website or by calling the Child Support enquiry line.
Assessment: Once registered, the DHS will assess the amount of child support the non-custodial parent is required to pay. This assessment is based on a formula that takes into account various factors, including the income of both parents, the number of children, the age of the children, and the level of care provided by each parent.
Agreement: Parents can choose to enter into a private child support agreement, either a binding child support agreement or a limited child support agreement. A binding agreement requires both parents to seek legal advice, while a limited agreement does not. If parents cannot agree, the DHS assessment will apply.
Receiving Child Support Payments
Payment Methods: There are several ways to receive child support payments. Parents can choose to have payments made directly between them, through the Child Support Collect service, or a combination of both.
Child Support Collect: If parents choose the Child Support Collect service, the DHS will collect payments from the paying parent and transfer them to the receiving parent. This service ensures that payments are made on time and in full.
Payment Frequency: The frequency of payments can vary depending on the arrangement between the parents. Payments can be made weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or in a lump sum.
Non-Payment: If the paying parent fails to make the required payments, the DHS can take enforcement action to recover the outstanding amount. This may include garnishing wages, intercepting tax refunds, or taking legal action.
Child Support and Government Benefits
It is important to note that child support payments may affect your eligibility for certain government benefits. For example, the amount of child support you receive may be deducted from your Family Tax Benefit (Part A) payment. It is advisable to seek advice from the DHS or a financial advisor to understand the impact of child support payments on your government benefits.
Child maintenance is crucial to ensuring that children receive the necessary financial support from both parents. In Australia, the Child Support Scheme administered by the Department of Human Services provides a structured process for assessing, receiving, and enforcing child support payments. Understanding this process and your rights and responsibilities as a parent can help ensure the best outcome for your child.