Child Support and Shared Custody – Things You Should Know

Under Australian family law, children have a right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. Both parents also have a duty to support the child financially after separation, regardless of who the child lives with. While there are many things that can go into calculating a parent’s child support requirements, there are two main factors – custody and income. When parents share custody of their child equally, the custody factor takes a back seat and income takes over. At Robert Wood and Associates, our experienced family and child custody lawyers can guide you through the entire process with expert and friendly advice. Here’s our guide to child to support and shared custody agreements. 

What is Equal Shared Parental Responsibility?

When the parents of a child under the age of 18 separate, they both continue to share parental responsibility for the child, meaning both parents make decisions regarding major long term issues such as where the child will go to school, major health decisions, and religious observance. This applies except when a court decides it is in the best interests of the child to remove parental responsibility from one or both parents. There is no rule that states children must spend equal or 50/50 time with each parent.

Will I have to Go to Court?

If you and your former partner agree on the future arrangements for children, you do not have to go to court. You can make a parenting agreement or obtain ‘consent orders’ for parenting orders approved by a court. This type of arrangement allows children of divorce to remain in frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is believed to be in their best interest.

I Have 50/50 Custody, Why Am I still Required to Pay Child Support?

50/50 custody arrangements do not necessarily absolve parents of child support obligations.

Child support has less to do with how much time each parent spends caring for their children and instead has everything to do with which parent has a higher income. If one parent earns significantly more than the other parent, it may be necessary for that parent to pitch in more, financially. Placing an equal financial burden on both parents is often unrealistic and could create a burden on the lesser-earning parent. A court will consider the income and earning potential of both parents and order the spouse with the higher income to pay child support.

How Much Will I Need to Pay?

The amount you are required to provide will be determined by having a Child Support Assessment by the Department of Human Services (Child Support Agency (CSA)). They will calculate payments based on a legislative formula which includes the cost of children, the income of both parents, the arrangement for the care of children for whom child support is payable, whether the parents have any relevant dependent children living with them and whether the parents have any children in other child support cases.

What if I Don’t Agree with the Child Support Assessment?

If you do not agree to the assessment by the CSA, you can lodge a Change of Assessment Form explaining the reasons why the assessment should be changed.

Remember Payments are for the Child

Separation is a difficult time and often parents can end up disagreeing over the settlement and fighting over every detail, child support included. It’s easy to forget that child support payments are made for the benefit of the child so before disputing any child support assessment, keep in mind that the court has decided the payment amount is in the best interests of your child.

Find a Child Custody Lawyer

Child support is a complicated area of law so obtaining advice from a specialised family lawyer can provide you with clarity about the best steps to take. It is also important to remember that child support orders can be changed. If you are responsible for paying child support, but your financial situation has changed, you can ask to have your obligation reduced.

If you need any advice on child custody or child support, contact the expert child custody lawyers at Robert Wood and Associates. We can help you understand your rights as a parent in Victoria and ensure the best outcome for you and your child. Contact us today on (03) 9762 3877.

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