Children’s matters are tough! If we know anything, it’s that you and your ex-partner are in the best position to make decisions for your children. Not a Judge who knows nothing about you or your family. It takes time, but we will help you settle into a new routine and help you make sound decisions for your family’s future.
What is joint custody and shared responsibility?
Joint custody or shared responsibility means that both parents have legal rights and responsibilities towards the child. It doesn’t mean that the child will spend half of their time with one parent and half with the other. But that each parent has an equal say in major decisions relating to the child in areas such as health and education.
But doesn’t the law now say that children have to spend equal time with each parent?
No, it doesn’t. The law ensures that the best interests of the children are served first. Consideration is made to determine what is in the children’s best interests. The court has to consider facilitating a meaningful relationship between the children and both of their parents. Also, the law protects the child from harm.
If the court provides equal shared responsibility it will also consider whether equal time is in the best interests of the children. As it must be practical. Rather than equal time, for example, the court may order substantial and significant time to be spent with the other parent. This might translate to being 4 nights per fortnight rather than 7.
Where do I start?
Firstly, get legal advice. Your lawyer will take you through all of the areas which need to be considered and document what you think is a fair approach to arrangements for your children. If your partner is agreeable, your lawyer can help you formalise the document without proceeding to costly court action.
If your differences are unable to be settled, then you will need to commence on the path to having parenting orders issued by the Court.
You will need to attend family dispute resolution before applying for parenting orders. The accredited family dispute resolution practitioner will issue a certificate which must be filed with the court application and simply states that your differences were unable to be resolved. If your partner refuses to attend this process you will be granted a certificate directly.
If your case does end up in court, a legally binding decision will be made after a hearing where the judge will decide what is in the child’s best interests.
If your children spend most of their time with you, you are likely to be entitled to child support payments. The amount of child support payable varies. It is monitored by the Child Support Agency (now called the Department of Human Services). Payments are calculated and decided upon according to your specific circumstances.
The amount of child support is worked out based on things such as the income of each of you, the cost of the care of the children and the percentage of time they spend with you.
We can help
Child support issues can be sensitive and difficult to work through. We can help you find your way through the process and the legislation.
Contact us to discuss your particular circumstances.
How can I work out what child support I'm entitled to?
There is an online child support calculator provided by the Child Support Agency (Department of Human Services). This will help you estimate both your child support and family assistance payments. However, it is an estimation only, as the calculation is quite complex and tailored to your situation.
You might also benefit from reading the Parent’s Guide to Child Support.
What about other expenses?
Basic periodic child support payments are intended to cover basic costs only. These include things such as food, shelter and clothing for your children. Other expenses such as special medical costs and private school fees won’t form part of the basic periodic assessment. If an agreement can’t be reached about payment may need to apply to the court for a Child Support Departure Order.
Can I overturn a decision made by the child support agency if it's not fair?
Yes, you may be able to. You have the right to object to the decision within 28 days. Then an internal review of the decision will take place within 60 days of the objection being filed.
You can also continue to appeal if the original decision was upheld by applying for a review through the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
What if my partner doesn't pay?
The Department of Human Services has the power to investigate and enforce payment. This includes the power to collect the payment from employers, the tax office and social security. It also has the power to stop people from leaving the country while there are outstanding payments