Could your Binding Child Support Agreement be suspended?
On 1 July 2018, amendments to the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 were made which have the potential to affect you if you have a current Binding Child Support Agreement with your ex-partner.
These recently introduced changes will affect you if under your Child Support Agreement, the parent receiving child support ("payee parent") is caring for a child across less than 35% of all overnight stays. If this is the case, the payee parent is no longer considered to be an "eligible carer" under the relevant legislation, and is in turn no longer eligible to receive child support payments.
If this is the case, the Binding Child Support Agreement may be suspended for 28 days - although it is important to note that this period of suspension can be extended to 26 weeks in circumstances where:
- The Binding Child Support Agreement specifically provides for such;
- Both parents agree, and advise the child support registrar of this prior to the 26 weeks having passed; and
- The child support registrar is satisfied that there are special circumstances at play.
If the payee parent recommences caring for the child across at least 35% all overnight stays, and once again becomes eligible to receive child support payments within either the 28 day or 26 week timeframe (whichever is relevant under the specific circumstances), the agreement will no longer be suspended.
If the payee parent does not recommence caring for the child for across at least 35% of all overnight stays, the Binding Child Support Agreement will be terminated.
What if there are multiple children with different care arrangements?
If the Child Support Agreement pertaining to one specific child is either suspended or terminated, the Agreement may still continue with respect to the other children - as long as the payee parent continues to be an eligible carer of those other children. That is, if they are looking after the other children for 35% or more of all overnight stays.
It must be noted that these changes do not just apply to new Binding Child Support Agreements, they also apply to all Binding Child Support Agreements that were already in place before 1 July 2019 - even if they were signed years prior.
If a Binding Child Support Agreement is either suspended or terminated, child support may still be payable, just at a different rate. This rate is prescribed by the Department of Human Services (Child Support Agency) pursuant to a formula, in the usual way. An administrative assessment will need to be updated (or applied for, if one was not already in place) in order to confirm how much is payable.
Have your circumstances changed?
If you haven't already, now may be the time to ask whether, under your parenting arrangement, the payee parent is caring for either one, or all of the children less than 35% of the time. If this is the case, and you believe that your Binding Child Support Agreement may be suspended or terminated pursuant to these changes, please don't hesitate to get in touch with one of Coleman Greig's Accredited Family Law Specialists to receive expert advice, tailored for your specific circumstances.