Supporting your child post-separation and the CSA
Dec 04, 2011 | Love Law
Following a separation or divorce, many parents must address the challenges associated with child support. This article discusses Australia's child support laws, explaining what child support is, how the CSA administers it and how it is calculated, as well as providing some suggestions for parents while navigating this often tumultuous time.
Child support (also referred to as child maintenance) is defined as:
an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent as a contribution to the costs of raising his or her child following the end of a marriage or other relationship.
In many cases, the parent who makes the child support contribution is a non-custodial parent (the parent with whom the child(ren) do not live with for the majority of the time).
The Child Support Agency
Under the Department of Human Services umbrella, the Australian Government administers the Child Support Agency (along with other health, social and welfare services such as Medicare and Centrelink).
The Child Support Agency (also referred to as CSA) is responsible for administering Australia's Child Support Scheme, which supports separated parents to transfer payments for the benefit of their children.
On its website, the Australian Law Reform Commission explains the basis of the scheme: “The Child Support Scheme was established in 1988 to enforce the right of children to be supported by both their parents”.
As explained on the CSA website, the scheme involves the assessment of child support in accordance with a formula, as well as the collection and enforcement of court orders, child support agreements and child support assessments.
Many parents can also choose to arrange child support independently, without any assistance from the CSA, the courts or other government agencies.
In Australia, issues relating to all children fall under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth), with the Act referring to child support and maintenance throughout.
Meanwhile, the Child Support Scheme is administered by two Acts of legislation.
The first Act is now known as the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (the Registration and Collection Act). It was formerly the Child Support Act 1988. This Act:
- established the Child Support Agency; and
- provided for the registration, collection and enforcement of court orders and court-registered agreements for child support and spousal maintenance.
The second Act is known as the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (the Assessment Act).
This Act implemented an administrative assessment of child support in accordance with a formula (information modified from the CSA website).
As a parent, you have choices in arranging your child support in a way that works for both parents.
There are a number of ways that child support can be assessed:
- a formula assessment (an assessment for child support made by CSA, using the child support formula contained in the legislation – see below for more information)
- an agreement between the parents (a written agreement which specifies how, and how much, child support is to be paid. A child support agreement can also be part of a parenting plan)
- a court order (an order made by a court relating to child support, which can only be changed by a court)
- independently, without assistance from CSA, the courts or other government agencies (known as self-administration).
As stated on the CSA website, every family is unique. Hence, the child support formula is flexible and takes into account many different family circumstances. According to the CSA, the formula “ensures a balanced and flexible way of working out child support payments”.
The key components of the formula are that:
- it is based on independent research
- the basis of the formula is the costs of raising children
- both parents’ incomes are taken into account and considered equally
- the same self-support amount is deducted from each parent’s income before child support is worked out
- the percentage of care each parent provides is taken into account
- children from first and subsequent families are treated in a similar way.
The CSA follows eight steps to calculate child support: to read through them click here.
There is also an online estimator to aid parents in calculating an estimate of what their child support payments may be. Click here to use the child support payments calculator.
Where CSA is located
To book an interview with a CSA officer, phone 131 272 (cost of a local call) or register for an interview online.
Alternatively, CSA officers are available in the following areas to conduct face-to-face interviews:
- NSW/ACT: Ballina, Campbelltown, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Gosford, Orange, Penrith, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga
- VIC: Bendigo, Frankston, Mildura, Morwell and Warrnambool.
- TAS: Launceston
- WA: Bunbury, Kalgoorlie.
- QLD: Bundaberg, Cairns, Mackay, Maroochydore, Palm Beach, Rockhampton and Toowoomba.
- SA/NT: Darwin, Mt. Gambier and Port Augusta.
Help in a time of change
The CSA has a number of online support services available to parents and families going through separation and divorce.
The services include:
- Budget Tool (an online tool to help you prepare your budget after separation)
- Self-help Quiz (a free quiz to help you assess your own health and wellbeing following separation and offer suggested pathways to make positive changes)
Visit the CSA website to access these services and many others.
In addition, the CSA has a number of publications available on its website that may be of use to parents going through separation and divorce.
- The Parent’s Guide to Child Support
- Me, my kids and my Ex – Forming a workable relationship for the benefit of your children
- Me and my money – Practical money ideas
Download these articles for free or order them online.
If you have a child support challenge or you aren't able to resolve your parenting issues with your ex-partner or with the Child Support Agency, you may need to consider retaining the services of an Australian Legal Practitioner (family lawyer / child support lawyer).
This article is general information only and is not legal, medical or psychological advice. Consult an Australian Legal Practitioner via Love Law Legal Consultations to obtain legal advice for your unique situation.