Child Support Agreements: Are you paying too much?

Divorce Children

Amendments to the Child Support Act (Assessment) 1989 came into effect on 1 July 2018.

The amendments apply retrospectively, so affect both new Child Support Agreement and those entered into before the amendments came into effect.

If you currently have a legally binding Child Support Agreement with your ex-partner, the amendments may have a major effect on your existing agreement.

Change in care arrangements

Under the new amendments, if the parent who receives child support (the “payee parent”) cares for the child for less than 35% of overnight stays (ie: less than 5 nights per fortnight), that parent is no longer eligible to receive child support payments as they are no longer viewed as an “eligible carer”.

If this is the case, a Child Support Agreement may be suspended for up to 28 days. The suspension may even be extended for up to 26 weeks in certain situations, such as if both parents have advised the Child Support Registrar before the 26 weeks have passed. The Registrar also must be satisfied that special circumstances are in play.

If within the 28 day or 26 week suspension period (whichever is relevant) the parent resumes caring for the child for over 35% of overnight stays, they will once again become eligible to receive child support payments. The suspension on the agreement will be lifted. If the parent does not resume the caring of the child for at least 35% of overnight stays, the Child Support Agreement will be terminated.

Circumstances that include multiple children

In some circumstances where multiple children are involved, the Agreement can be terminated for one child but continue as normal for the other child. This is relevant if the payee parent is caring for the other child for at least 35% of overnight stays.

What happens when an Agreement is terminated?

If an Agreement has been suspended or terminated, child support to the payee is still possible, but may be at a different rate to what was provided in the former Agreement. The rate will be decided by the Child Support Agency according to the current child support formula.

If your circumstances have changed and the payee parent is not meeting the conditions to care for a child for at least 35% of overnight stays, it is important that you seek expert legal advice from a family lawyer as soon as possible.

For more information and advice about how your Child Support Agreement may be affected by recent changes, call Leach Legal in Perth on 08 9486 9733 to talk to one of our team.