Many couples will remarry after divorce. A very commonly asked question by our clients is “Does child support change if you get married?” Read on to learn the answers to all your frequently asked questions in relation to child support and the circumstances when your child support assessment might change.
Does Child Support Change if you get married?
No in most cases. Child Support is based on a formula that takes into account the income of the parents and the care arrangements of the children and the costs of the children.
You would need to show special circumstances exist that require you to support your new spouse, in order to successfully change your child support assessment.
Does Child Support Change if my ex-spouse remarries?
No. Only the income of the parents of your children is taken into account in the assessment of your child support payments. Furthermore, a new spouse of a child support payer is not responsible for making child support payments. Consequently, the income and assets of a new spouse are irrelevant to the calculation of child support payments.
Does Child Support Change if you have another child?
Yes. Your child support assessment has regard to the number of dependent children you have. If you have another child with your new partner, then that child is your dependent and you should contact the Child Support Agency to let them know you have another dependent child to support.
What if my ex is hiding income?
The most common situation we see this arising is where the other parent is self-employed and they are running personal expenses through the business such that their true income is not reflected in the tax return (e.g. husband runs a business with an annual turnover of $800,000, but his income on paper is only $75,000 per annum).
It is also not uncommon for the other parent who is a business owner to avoid doing their tax return, where their income has increased over the years, in order to avoid an increase in their child support assessment.
Another common strategy to try and hide income is where the paying parent distributes income from their company to their partner whilst distributing only a minimal amount to themselves.
Whilst the Child Support Agency laws aim to close as many loopholes off as possible where parents are avoiding paying child support, unfortunately, self-employed parents are most easily able to avoid their child support obligations.
Where the parent is a wage earner, it is easy for Child Support to require the employer to deduct the parent’s child support liability, however, if a self-employed parent refuses to pay child support and there is no way to collect child support from that person, there is nothing that Child Support can do. As a result of this predicament, as at 2019, parents have racked up $1.6 billion in child support payment debts. Of that, Queensland parents owe $364M in child support.
Click the link to learn more about Child Support Debts by state and what Child Support are doing to reduce the debt.
So what do I do to make sure my ex’s income is reflected accurately with the child support agency?
Child Support have the power to look beyond the financial circumstances of a self-employed parent, to their actual financial position, regardless of their ownership of assets of declared income.
If you are concerned that your ex partner’s income income recorded on their tax return does not reflect their true income, you can lodge a Change of Assessment form with the Child Support Agency to investigate the financial position of the paying parent.
The Child Support Agency will then request that your ex provide documents to support the income they are earning such as tax returns, financial statements, bank statements and the like.
After undertaking an investigation, the Child Support Agency can record a change of assessment if appropriate, to reflect the true income that your ex is earning.
Can child support be reduced?
Yes. Child Support can be reduced where there has been a change in circumstances and/or any of the following criteria apply:
- If your income changes;
- If the child care arrangements change;
- If you have another dependent child;
- If your relationship with the other parent changes (e.g. you get back together);
- If you and the other parent have another child together;
- If your child marries or starts to live with their partner
The Child Support agency can also credit payments made by you either directly to the receiving parent or to a third party. Where the other parent does not agree, you can apply for a credit of up to 30% of child support as a prescribed Non-agency Payment which is made either to the receiving parent, or to a third party. Non-agency payments include, for example:
- essential medical or dental
- school fees
- child care expenses
- some motor vehicle expenses
- the receiving parent’s share of utilities and rates
- the receiving parent’s share of rent or mortgage repayments
For more information on no-agency payments and how they can be credited towards your child support payments, click the link.
Another option to challenge your child support assessment is by applying to the Child Support Registrar for a departure from the administrative assessment where you can prove there are ‘special circumstances’. Special circumstances include, for example, private school fees (where there is joint intention for a child to attend private school), increased costs of spending time with a child, or where a child has special health care needs.
If the objection is not successful you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Appeals from the AAT lie to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
For more information on your capacity to challenge your child support assessment, and the ‘special circumstances’ under which you can apply to challenge your assessment, check out the following pages:
Does child support include private school fees?
No. A child support assessment is calculated based on a child attending a state school, not a private school.
Can child support be increased to cover private school fees?
Yes. In special circumstances, the Child Support Agency can increase a child support assessment in order to require a parent to contribute to private school fees.
There are ten grounds that a parent can apply to the child support registrar for departure of a child support assessment, based on ‘special circumstances’. Click the link to learn about the 10 grounds where you can object to a child support assessment, based on special circumstances.
Reason 3 that you can apply for a departure of a child support assessment based on ‘special circumstances’ is if the costs of maintaining your child are significantly affected by high costs of caring for, educating or training the child in the way both parents intended.
Whether or not your application will be successful depends on whether the additional costs involved in educating your child are significant and also the intentions of the parents.
Where a parent has not agreed to a child attending private schooling, they will not be liable to contribute to the fees unless there are other cogent reasons relating to the child’s welfare that require the child to attend private school.
Conversely, if there was an agreement that the child would attend private school and if there are signed enrolment forms or if the child is already attending private school, then it is likely that the other parent will be required to contribute to the child’s private school fees, and the child support assessment will be increased to accommodate this.
Can child support be increased to cover extra-curricular activities?
The Child Support Assessment covers all day to day expenses for your children such as food, clothing, medical costs, school costs and extra curricular activities.
If the expenses for the extra-curricular activities are significant and you can prove there are special circumstances, you can apply to change the assessment.
For more information on what special circumstances are that may qualify for you applying to change your child support assessment, click the link.
I live interstate and I pay a lot of expenses to spend time with my kids. Can my child support payments be reduced?
Reason 1 that you can apply for a departure of a child support assessment based on ‘special circumstances’ is where the costs of spending time with your child are significant and above 5% of your adjustable annual taxable income.
You will need to apply for a change of assessment and provide proof of the costs you outlay in order to spend time with your child and that they are above 5% of your taxable annual income, to be successful in your application.
I want more information about child support
Click the links to the following articles:
- Child Support – What you need to know.
- I want to challenge my child support assessment.
- I want to set aside a binding child support agreement.
Contact us for advice about changing your child support assessment
There are various when your child support assessment can change. Contact us to book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of our experienced Brisbane Family Lawyers, for advice as to whether you can lodge a change of your child support assessment in your specific circumstances.