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Varying a Child Support Assessment

An assessment of how much child support a person must pay is not usually set in stone and the assessment can change in certain situations. The amount of child support a parent is required to pay may change several times during the years they are required to pay child support for a child. This can be because of changes made by the Registrar in response to changes in the parent’s circumstances or because the parent has sought administrative review.

Administrative review

According to the Child Support Assessment Act 1989 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 unsatisfied with the review, it is possible to appeal the decision by filing an application with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. The Social Security Appeals Tribunal is a division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and reviews decisions made under Commonwealth legislation.

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 or a terminating event, the Registrar must immediately take action to take the change into account.

A change in circumstances is any change affecting:

  • care arrangements for the children;
  • changes in relation to dependent children;
  • income;

A terminating event is an event such as:

  • the child passing away;
  • the child turning 18;
  • the child being adopted; or
  • the child becoming a member of a couple.

The Registrar is required to immediately take action as is necessary to take into account the change in circumstances or the occurrence of a terminating event. Any decision made by the Registrar may be reviewed by following the processes mentioned above.

Change of assessment initiated by the child support registrar

The Child Support Registrar has the discretion to amend an assessment:

  • to correct any error or mistake;
  • to correct any false or misleading statement made to the Registrar;
  • to give effect to the occurrence of a terminating event (mentioned above);
  • to accept a child support agreement; or
  • to give effect to a decision made by the AAT or order of the court exercising jurisdiction (normally the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court)

Special circumstances

The Registrar is empowered to vary the assessment of child support payable in the event there are “special circumstances”. There are 10 circumstances under which the Child Support Registrar will do this. They are when:

  • there are high costs associated with spending time or communicating with the child;
  • there are costs associated with the child’s special needs;
  • the child is being cared for, educated or trained in the way both parents intend (ie. the child attends private school);
  • the child earns an income, owns property or has access to financial resources;
  • the child has already received money, goods or property directly or through the other parent (ie. as a result of property settlement);
  • there are childcare costs  for either of the parents where the child is under the age of 12 years;
  • there are necessary expenses which significantly reduce the parent’s capacity to support the child;
  • the assessment is unfair due to the earning capacity or financial resources of one or both of the parents;
  • 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 reduces their capacity to support another child.

Application to the court

A party is entitled to apply to depart from a child support assessment:

  • 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 apply 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 child maintenance order. The court can 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 an adult child maintenance order we recommend consulting with a family law solicitor from our office.

By agreement

In the event parties have obtained an administrative assessment yet wish to agree upon their own rate of child support payable, they maydo so by agreement.

If you would like advice about varying child support assessments or any other legal matter contact our family lawyers on 1300 038 223 or send us an email.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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