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What Does A Court Consider When Calculating Child Maintenance?

Separation and divorce are two topics that people often avoid talking abou when in reality, these are important issues that should be discussed openly, especially when children are involved. Whilst no one ever wishes for a child to be separated from their parents, the truth of the matter is that divorce is something that occurs often, and the welfare of the children involved in a divorce should always take precedence over any other matter.  One of the major components of a separation is child maintenance. Figuring out how much in child maintenance payments a parent has to contribute or receive is sometimes a tricky thing to decipher. In today’s article, we have a look at what the legal system considers when calculating child maintenance, so read on to find out more. 

What Is Child Maintenance?

First up - we look into what the term ‘child maintenance’, often also referred to as ‘child support’ means. Child maintenance is the agreement of an ongoing payment that is made by one parent to another to assist in taking care of and supporting the child/children.  Once separation or divorce occurs, the court will look into matters such as parenting arrangements, spousal support agreements and child maintenance payments. Often, the court will also look into each parent’s financial situation/income in order to make the decision on which parent this obligation falls on.  

Calculating Child Maintenance Payments

Generally, calculating child maintenance payments involves analysing how much the necessary expenses of a child are per month. Each parent’s state of employment, finances and income earning capacities are also taken into consideration, along with the child’s ability to seek employment if they are of legal working age. A child’s necessary expenses include housing, transport, school fees, food, utilities and medical costs. Matters such as entertainment, holidays and pleasure activities are often excluded when calculating maintenance payments.  In certain cases, the child’s tertiary education will also be taken into consideration. If the court deems that a child would have to abandon studies due to insufficient funds, hardship will be declared It is good to note that in some situations, it is not a necessity for each parent to contribute equally. The contribution percentage payable is unique to each individual case and will be based on each parent’s financial status and capacity to contribute.

How Are Payments Made?

In most cases, payments are made on a monthly basis. However, there is also the option to make a lump sum payment or pay the support fees in installments. If a parent’s character comes into question or the court has reason to suspect that payments will not be made in a timely manner, a lump sum payment may be a legal obligation.  Child maintenance orders will last until the date that is specified within the order. In general, maintenance payments will be made until a child enters concludes their tertiary education.

What If A Parent Fails To Contribute?

In rare cases where one parent fails to provide their monthly contribution to the welfare of a child, penalties may be applied on the outstanding amount. This penalty will be paid to the Australian Government, not to the receiving parent. If a parent manages to fork out overdue payments, the penalty will be reviewed and possibly reduced or removed.  If the parent who is meant to be receiving support has not been able to receive payments, it is always advised to act swiftly and contact the DHS.. The Department of Human Services can only collect arrears for the previous 90 days, however in certain circumstances, one may be able to receive arrears for up to 9 months. --------- Calculating child support payments is something that can be a sensitive situation for all involved. It is highly recommended that you liaise with your lawyer in order to ensure that you are well versed in all things child support related. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have queries about child maintenance - we’re always here to help. All the best!