Child Support Assessments
You can apply to the Child Support Agency (‘CSA’) for a child support assessment. The application can be made in person, online, or by telephone. The CSA uses a very complex formula to determine how much child support is paid. The formula takes into account:
- The income of both parents;
- The care arrangements for the children;
- The age of children and statistics about costs of raising children,
- An amount neccessary for self-support.
Once the application is processed, a Child Support Assessment is issued to both parents.
The CSA does not collect child support payments unless you specifically ask them to. You can make your own arrangements for payment and collection.
Changing your assessment – estimates
Your income circumstances may change. You should keep the CSA informed of any changes that might affect your child support assessment. You can provide estimates of income to ensure your assessment is up to date. Significant penalties apply for false or inaccurate estimates. If your estimated income changes, inform the CSA straight away.
Changing your assessment in special circumstances – applications to CSA
There are special circumstances in which a Senior Case Officer of the CSA can change an assessment. The ‘reasons’ for change in assessment include:
- The assessment not reflecting the income, earning capacity, financial resources and property of either parent or of a child.
- Educating a child in a manner expected by both parents (e.g. private or religious schooling).
- High costs involved in spending time with a child.
- Special needs of a child.
The process and relevant factors in making a decision are explained in our Child Support – Change of Assessment brochure:
Child Support Agreements
There are two types of child support agreement that can be registered with the CSA. One is called a limited child support agreement, the other a binding child support agreement.
For an agreement to be binding:
- it must be in writing and signed;
- the parties must have independent legal advice prior to signing;
- the fact of the advice must be included in the body of the agreement;
- there must be statements by each legal practitioner, annexed to the agreement , recording that the advice was given;
- the original is given to one party and a copy to the other.
Limited child support agreements have different requirements. Parties do not need independent legal advice (or any statement from a legal practitioner) but:
- There must be a child support assessment in place first;
- The amount agreed to must be equal to or greater than that assessment;
Limited agreements can be more easily ended than binding ones, particularly if there is a significant change in financial circumstances. Both limited and binding agreements can be set aside if certain circumstances apply. The requirements are different for each type.
Why are child support agreements useful?
Child support agreements can achieve certainty of outcomes when incomes are uncertain or likely to change in the future. Once registered with the Child support agency, periodic (i.e week to week payments) can be collected by the child support agency as if the agreement were an assessment.
Child support agreements are a helpful tool in negotiating property settlements. Sometimes, in order to reach agreement on the amount of property a party receives; child support might be increased or reduced for a time. Limited child support agreements are useful to increase child support for a short period, or to provide some flexibility in case something goes (financially) wrong.
Contact us to obtain advice about whether a child support agreement might be suitable for you.