An assessment to pay child support is not usually “set in stone” and it can change in the following ways:
1. Administrative Review:
According to the Child Support Assessment Act 1989 (Cth) (“the CSAA”) each party has a right to object to a decision made by the Registrar triggering an internal administrative review of the decision.
If you are not satisfied with the review, it is possible to appeal the decision by filing an application with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
2. Change of a Formula Event:
Child Support is calculated pursuant to a specific “child support formula”. In the event there is a change in circumstances affecting any of the following:
- New care arrangements for the children;
- Changes in relation to dependent children;
- Any changes in income;
- Or any “terminating event” including the following:
- The child dies;
- The child turns 18;
- The child is adopted; or
- The child becomes a member of a couple.
The Registrar is required to immediately take action as is necessary to account for the change in circumstances or the occurrence of a terminating event.
Note: Any decision made by the Registrar may be reviewed by following the processes mentioned above.
3. Change of Assessment Initiated by the Child Support Registrar:
The Child Support Registrar has the discretion to amend an assessment in the following circumstances:
- To correct any error or mistake;
- Correct any false or misleading statement made to the Registrar;
- Giving effect to the occurrence of a terminating event (mentioned above);
- Accepting a child support agreement; or
- Giving effect to a decision made by the AAT or order of the Court exercising jurisdiction (normally the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court)
4. Special Circumstances:
The Registrar is empowered to vary the assessment of child support payable in the event there are “special circumstances”. There a 10 circumstances the Child Support Registrar will consider in its determination, these are:
- The high costs of spending time or communicating with the child;
- Costs associated with the child’s special needs;
- Whether the child is being cared for, educated or trained in the way both parents intend (ie. the child attends private school);
- Whether the child earns an income, owns property or has access to financial resources;
- Whether the child has already received money, goods or property directly or through the other parent (ie. as a result of property settlement);
- The cost of childcare for the parent or non-parent where the child is under the age of 12 years;
- Whether there are necessary expenses which significantly reduce the parent’s capacity to support the child;
- Whether the assessment is unfair due to the earning capacityor financial resources of one or both of the parents;
- Whether the parent’s capacity to support the child is significantly reduced by a duty of that parent to maintain another person or child;
- The parent’s responsibility to support a resident child, reducing their capacity to support another child.
5. Application to the Court:
A party is entitled to bring an Application to depart from a child support assessment in the following circumstances:
- Where the parents/carers are already parties to an Application pending in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court; and
- Where the Court is satisfied it is just and equitable, or otherwise proper to make an order departing from the child support assessment.
These matters are dealt with on a case by case basis and require a number of considerations to be made. If you wish to file and Application in the Court to depart from a child support assessment, we recommend discussing your matter with a solicitor from our office.
Adult Children Maintenance Orders
In the event your child is 17 or 18, it might be possible to apply to the Court for an adult maintenance order. The Court has the power to order a parent to pay maintenance for a child over 18 where:
- The child is completing his or her education; or
- The child suffers from a mental or physical disability.
If you wish to discuss the option of applying for a child maintenance order we recommend consulting with a family law solicitor from our office.
6. By Agreement:
In the event parties have obtained an administrative assessment, yet wish to agree upon their own rate of child support payable, they are able to do so by agreement.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?