Parenting Arrangements & Child Support

by | Mar 12, 2024

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Relocating with Children<br />

Family Dispute Resolution

Before filing any application for parenting orders in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, parents must try to resolve their dispute by less adversarial means. In order to make an application for parenting orders, parents must supply the Court with a certificate from a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner which indicates that they have attempted to resolve their dispute outside of Court.

A Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner is a qualified professional trained in family dispute resolution processes such as counselling and mediation. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the Court will not require such a Certificate.

Parenting Arrangements for Children

The Family Law Act 1975 governs all parenting arrangements regarding children. The objective of the Act is to ensure that the best interests of the children are met and that children receive help to achieve their full potential.

To promote these objectives it is generally accepted that:

    • children have a right to safety and to be protected from being subjected to family violence, abuse, neglect, or other harm;

    • children have a right to know and be cared for by both parents;

    • children have a right to spend time and communicate on a regular basis with both parents and other people significant to them;

    • parents should share duties and responsibilities in relation to their children; and

    • parents should consult and agree about the future parenting of their children.

Read more about Court orders

Relocation of Children

An issue often arising on separation is the question of one party wanting to move with the children to another city, state or country. This issue can be a very emotional and daunting. When the question of relocation is raised, you should obtain legal advice from a specialist family lawyer.

The Court will consider the competing proposals of each parent and ultimately decide whether the children should relocate based on whether it is in the children’s best interests to do so. Some factors the Court will consider include:

    • what arrangements will promote safety for the children;

    • any views expressed by the children;

    • the children’s developmental, psychological, emotional and cultural needs and the capacity of each parent to provide for those needs;

    • the nature of the relationship of the children with each party and with other significant people, such as grandparents; and

    • the practical difficulty and expense of the children having contact with the non-relocating party.

Enforcement and Contravention of Parenting Orders

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have processes for establishing and enforcing parenting orders. However, enforcement of those orders is discretionary and the discretion will be exercised with the best interests of the child as a starting point.

If a party breaches a parenting order, the other party can file a contravention application in the Court. The Court can then make orders, including for:

    • punishment of the contravening party, for example by fines;

    • consensual resolution through mediation, negotiation or counselling;

    • make up time with the child/children; and

    • variation of the original order.

Child Support

Both parents are responsible for maintaining their children.

Child Support (Services Australia)

Child support is generally payable in accordance with a formula contained in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. Different formulae apply depending on the circumstances of the parents. Either parent can ask Services Australia (Child Support) to make an assessment of the amount payable and the assessment is enforceable.

If a party wants to vary a child support assessment, they must usually apply to a child support review officer of Services Australia (Child Support). There are limited circumstances in which a child support assessment will be varied.

Seeking a Variation from a Child Support Assessment in Court

A variation from a child support assessment can also be made by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia if there are proceedings pending in these Courts.

Child Support Agreements

To record private arrangements, parents can enter into different types of child support agreements. These can be long term or short term agreements. There are two specific types of child support agreements:

    • Limited Child Support Agreements; and

    • Binding Child Support Agreements.

Child support agreements can provide for an amount of child support to be paid periodically and/or set out how expenses such as school fees are to be paid. Child support agreements can be registered with Services Australia (Child Support), making the consent arrangement enforceable.

If a parent receives a Social Security payment, special rules may apply.

Common questions about Parenting Arrangements and Child Support

How is Child Support Calculated?
Child Support is usually calculated using formula set out in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. These formulas depend on differing circumstances, such as how many children there are and whether a non-parent carer is involved.

The basic formula takes into account a number of factors including:

• Each parent’s taxable income;

• The time each child lives with each parent; and

• The age of the children.

Do I need to go through the Child Support Agency?
• The Child Support Agency applies the basic formaul and makes an Assessment. The Agency will only issue an assessment if requested by one or more of the parents.

• You do not always need to obtain an assessment from the Child Support Agency. Parents can make their own private arrangements including entering into Child Support Agreements.

• You can also make an Application to the Courts in certain circumstances.

Parenting Arrangements & Child Support

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