Parents are financially responsible to support their children. Even upon separation, this obligation continues. Whilst there are mandatory obligations, parents also have options to reach an agreement about how the children are to be financially supported outside of the statutory obligations that exist.
Informal agreements are not uncommon, although they generally only work in circumstances where there remains a high level of trust between the parties.
Even if trust continues after separation, some parties like to formalize their agreement so that they can plan their future knowing that, despite the happening of unforeseeable events in the future, they have an agreement upon which they can rely now and into the future regardless of a change to a parent or party’s personal circumstances. Generally, this occurs by parents entering into a Limited Child Support Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement. These types of agreements can be used to commit parents to pay specific sums each week / fortnight or to pay certain agreed expenses such as private education, private health insurance, extra-curricular activities or the like.
In other circumstances you may elect or be required to apply to the Child Support Agency (the Department of Human Services) to obtain an administrative assessment. An administrative assessment is a calculation provided by the Child Support Agency based on a formula set out in the Child Support (Assessment) Act. Even if parents apply for and obtain an administrative assessment, they can choose to either:
- privately collect (where one parent pays the funds directly to the other parent) or
- have the Child Support Agency collect funds on behalf of the paying parent and pay those funds to the parent receiving the support.