Changing child support assessment
A person who is either paying or receiving child support payment can apply to the Child Support Agency to change the child support assessment in special circumstances.
Part 6A of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) sets out an administrative process for a child support assessment to be changed, in limited situations. The Child Support Agency sets out ten reasons which allow a person to bring an application for changing child support assessment pursuant to the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth).
In our experience, some of the reasons that are commonly relied upon by a parent for changing a child support assessment are:
- Reason 2 – The costs of maintaining a child are significantly affected by high costs associated with the child’s special needs.
- Reason 3 – The costs of maintaining a child are significantly affected by high costs of caring for, educating or training the child in the way both parents intended.
- Reason 8 – The child support assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity, property or financial resources of one or both parents.
An applicant must nominate at least one of these ten reasons in their application and provide details of their financial circumstances. It is not open to an applicant to simply apply for change of assessment because they think the assessment is unfair. Such an application must satisfy the legal elements required under these reasons, with relevant evidence and reasoning.
The application is usually lodged with the Child Support Agency. The Child Support Agency has the power to set a new annual rate of child support in substitution of the original assessment.
Two common situations that may trigger an Application for change in child support
Liability to pay cost towards private schooling
Where a child has attended a public school prior to the parents’ separation, and subsequent to separation, one parent enrols the child in a private school without consulting with the other parent, an application for changing the child support may be made under Reason 3.
As a general rule, a parent should not be obliged to contribute towards private school fees, unless he or she has consented to contribute towards the school fees, or unless he or she has consented to the child attending that school.
In some special circumstances, it may be appropriate for a parent to be compelled to contribute towards private school fees, even though he or she had not consented to the child attending a private school or had not been consulted upon the matter. For example (in a novel circumstance), a parent may have to contribute towards private schooling fees where there is clear evidence that it is in the best interests of the child to attend private school as opposed to attending a public school.
Earning capacity of a parent
If a parent decides either to give up work completely, or to adjust their financial position so they do not earn nearly as much as before as a way to avoid their child support obligations, or has the benefit of financial resources (such as an interest in a business or company), the other parent may bring an application for changing their child support assessment under Reason 8.
In these kinds of situations, the Child Support Register may change the child support assessed based on the other parent’s higher earning capacity, not the actual earnings. The Child Support Register may look at the parent’s ability to work, whether there is an opportunity to work, and their willingness to work.
An application for change in a child support assessment allows the parties to respond to unanticipated changes in the parents’ and children’s lives. Such applications have long lasting effects, as these payments will generally continue until the child or children turn 18.
Need help to change your Child Support Agreement? Contact us
If you would like more information our Brisbane Family Lawyers can help. Call us on Ph 07 3252 0011 or email us today to ask about a fixed fee first appointment.