If a couple with a child together decide to separate or divorce, both parents have a legal duty to continue supporting the child’s financial well being. This child support applies to every parent, whether biological or adoptive, same-sex or de facto, living together or apart. But what does child support cover in WA?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as it depends on your unique circumstances. Below, we explain how child support is calculated and what factors the Family Court will consider when calculating payments.
What is child support?
Calculated by the Child Support Agency (CSA), child support is a sum paid from one parent to the parent serving as primary care-giver. This payment is intended to support the cost of raising your child.
As a parent, you may:
- Pay child support if your portion of the combined parental income exceeds your percentage contribution to child care.
- Receive child support if your percentage contribution to child care exceeds your portion of the combined parental income.
Any legal guardian who looks after the child for a minimum of 35% of the year is classified as a primary care-giver. However, the CSA will only perform a child support assessment if the application includes sufficient evidence that its proposed payer is the child’s biological, adoptive or same-sex parent.
What does child support cover?
Depending on the circumstances, child support can cover a variety of expenses such as education, accommodation, transport, clothing, food and healthcare.
The CSA uses a complex formula to confirm the amount of child support payable to the primary care-giver. The key factors assessed when ascertaining this figure are:
- How many children you share
- How old these children are
- How much income each parent earns
- How much each parent contributes to child care (calculated as a percentage)
The resulting sum may be insufficient to cover costs such as private school fees and private health insurance premiums, so there may need to be discussion around how to divide these additional expenses. Read on to learn more.
When the paying parent is responsible for less than 14% of childcare, the other parent can request that the CSA credits specific payments in their child support assessment.
Claiming up to 30% of the total amount payable, these ‘prescribed expenses’ may include:
- Childcare expenses;
- Medical and dental costs;
- Public education fees;
- School uniforms and textbooks;
- Housing fees, including rent or mortgage repayments; and
- Vehicle expenses
Child Support Agreements
Rather than following the CSA’s assessment formula, parents may decide to enter into a private agreement. The Child Support Assessment Act permits two types of private agreements, which can determine and/or update payments to include additional costs such as:
- Private health cover
- Private education fees
- Any extra expenses to meet the child’s ‘special needs’ e.g. particular medical costs
Provided there is an agreement in place between parents, child support payments can be offset by direct payments to third parties.
Binding Child Support Agreements
Binding Child Support Agreements (BCSAs) combine firm legal terms and conditions with flexible payment options, such as lump sums or property transfer instead of regular monetary provisions. Both parents must receive independent and professional legal advice prior to entering into this type of agreement.
Limited Child Support Agreement
Best suited to shorter time frames and amicable separations, Limited Child Support Agreements can include terms that expire after three years or earlier. While legal advice is not technically required to enter into this type of agreement, we strongly suggest seeking professional guidance on a matter this important.
How long do child support payments continue for?
In Australia, child support continues until the child either turns 18 or completes full-time education – whichever milestone comes second.
Receive personalised advice on child support in WA
The sooner you can arrange child support after separation, the better. Once finalised, you will be able to enjoy peace of mind that your child’s financial security is safeguarded by legally enforceable terms.
At Affinitas Legal, our family lawyers in Perth are available to assist you with Child Support matters, including entering into a BCSA. Please get in touch today for tailored support from our trusted team.