When a divorce or separation occurs, both parents still have a responsibility to support their children financially.
In most cases, the parent who has physical custody of the children fulfils this responsibility by being the custodial parent and is entitled to claim child support payments from the other non-custodial parent.
It’s important to make sure you are receiving the right amount of child support so you know the costs of raising your children are covered fairly and evenly by both parents. Read on to find out how you can check if you’re receiving the right amount of child support and what you should do if you’re not.
1. Get a Child Support Assessment
The easiest way to make sure you’re receiving the correct amount of child support is to apply for a child support assessment from the Child Support Agency.
It’s important to apply for child support as soon as possible after separation because the Child Support Agency may not be able to backdate your child support entitlements.
While you and the other parent can agree to increase the amount of child support you receive, the other parent should not be paying you less than the amount identified in the child support assessment.
The Child Support system exists to provide financial support for children under 18 years of age. Find out what child support is supposed to cover.
After you have a child support assessment, the Child Support Agency will contact the other parent and let you both know how much child support you should be receiving.
The Agency will want the other parent to pay you directly if possible. Always set up your child support payment by way of direct debit to a bank account so that you and the other parent both have a record as to when and whether you have been paid.
2. Check the facts are correct
When you first get your child support assessment you should check if the incomes on the assessment are correct for your former partner and yourself. If they are not correct you should contact the Child Support Agency. The Child Support Agency usually uses the last tax return of each person to calculate the child support income.
If the child support assessment doesn’t properly take into account the actual care arrangements for your children, our lawyers at DBH Family Law can advise you how to get the correct care arrangements taken into account, such as through parenting plans, mediation or, if necessary, court proceedings.
3. Take action if the other parent isn’t paying child support
If the other parent is not paying the whole or any of your child support entitlement, you should contact the Child Support Agency every time they miss a payment. If they are a PAYE taxpayer, the Child Support Agency can arrange for their payment to be taken out by their employers. Sometimes they can also seize a tax refund or bank account if there is a child support debt.
4. Apply for an increase in child support
Child support is meant to cover basic living expenses for the child when they are in your care, such as food, clothing, public school expenses, transport costs and the like. Sometimes children have extra expenses and it’s possible to apply to increase your child support assessment to take them into account.
Our lawyers at DBH Family Law can advise you about whether you are entitled to apply for an increase in your child support assessment.
You may be entitled to more child support if:
- Your children were attending private school at separation and the other parent is not now contributing to the school fees, or you cannot afford the school fees yourself;
- Your children have extraordinary medical expenses such as if they have a disability or require braces; and
- The paying parent has financial resources or income that does not appear in their tax return, such as the ability to have many of their expenses paid through a small business.
DBH’s Family Lawyers can help you maximise your child support through your application to review your child support assessment. They can ensure all of the information needed is provided to the Child Support Agency, that the forms are correctly filled out and that your case for an increase in child support is made as clearly as possible.
When child support isn’t enough…
Sometimes child support alone is not enough to enable you to manage your living expenses in the period after separation. DBH Family Law can also advise you about your entitlement to spouse maintenance and assist you in negotiating a financial settlement with your former partner.