Child support is never an easy subject to discuss, whether you’re the one paying it or receiving it. The reason it’s such a complex topic because child support is associated with divorce, and divorce brings intense emotions to the surface. However, if you’re considering divorce and you have children with your partner, it’s critical that you start thinking about child support and estimate child support payments before you go through the process.
Child Support Payment Factors
In Australia, child support payments are not straightforward. They are calculated using a formula that considers your current financial situation and your child’s future needs. No two divorces are the same, which means it’s nearly impossible to know what your child support payments will be ahead of time. The Child Support Agency (CSA) must investigate your circumstances before determining how much child support you’ll either pay or receive.
CSA will gather information from you and your partner to assess child support payments when considering your financial standing. They will need to know the details about:
- Each parent’s income
- Each parent’s expenses
- Each parent’s future earning potential
- The child’s expenses and which parent is responsible for which expenses
- The amount of time the child is spending with each parent
- Court judgments related to the child
- Any parenting plans that are in place after the divorce is finalized
- The child’s age
Of course, if there is more than one child involved, each child’s needs will be individually examined to ensure the most accurate calculation can be made.
Eight-Step Child Support Payment Formula
Once the CSA has gathered the necessary information for each parent, it will use a basic eight-step formula to calculate the amount of child support that will be paid and who will pay it. These steps are:
- Calculate each parent’s income minus a self-support amount and any relevant dependant allowance
- Add both parents’ income together to determine a total child support income.
- Calculate each parent’s income percentage by dividing each individual income by the total income
- Calculate each parent’s percentage of care
- Using the Care and Cost Table, calculate each parent’s cost percentage, which is subtracted from the income percentage for each parent.
- Calculate each parent’s child support percentage. A negative percentage means a parent will receive support and a positive percentage means a parent will pay support
- If there is a parent with a positive child support percentage, then calculate the costs for each child using the Costs of Children Table
- Calculate the total amount of child support that should be paid by multiplying the positive child support percentage by the costs of each child.
Child Support Amounts Can Change
If you don’t agree with the amount of child support that CSA calculates you should pay or receive, you can appeal their decision within 28 days. The appeal could change the amount you pay or receive in child support. Additionally, suppose either you or your partner’s income situations change in the future. In that case, you may be able to petition the court for less or more child support, depending on the situation.
In the end, you want to make sure your children’s needs are met through child support, but you also want to protect your rights as well. It’s always a good idea to work with an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests during a divorce.