Creevey Russell Lawyers says stressors of the New Year and the new school year can often result in financial disputes between separated couples that courts, it noted, “are often unable to resolve”.
Principal Clare Creevey explained that the costs of new uniforms, books, extra-curricular activities, and private school fees can result in much tension arising between separated couples, especially when it comes to matters concerning child support.
“Generally, child support is not part of financial or parenting proceedings between the parents in Family Court matters,” Ms Creevey said.
“Child support is dealt with by the federal Department of Human Resources (Child Support), also known as the Child Support Agency. A statutory formula is used to calculate the amount payable based on the number of nights the children spend with each parent, each parent’s income and the ages of the children.
"This formula does not otherwise take account of individual circumstances.”
Ms Creevey noted that the statutory formula relevant to school costs “will determine if more payments are required to care for, educate or train the children in the way each parent intended”.
“If prior to separation, it was intended the children attend private or boarding schools, the costs are likely to be more than any child support calculated and may provide a basis to apply for a variation,” she added.
The alternative, Ms Creevey said, to resolving a child support matter through the Child Support Agency is to negotiate a child support agreement, either a limited agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement (BCSA).
“These agreements give certainty and clarity to the parties’ expectations and obligations, thus removing the potential for ongoing conflict,” she said.
“If the agreement is a BCSA, there is little limit to what can be achieved. There can be fixed sum payments, payments to third parties, requirement for the parties to agree before expenses are incurred, or requirement for a party not to unreasonably withhold consent to an expense being incurred.
“It may be difficult to think about negotiating issues that affect just the parents immediately after separation. However, both parents are generally focused on ensuring the children are protected from the separation. If a BSCA can be negotiated and agreed in the early stages of separation, it may remove what would otherwise be one of the most bitter sources of conflict.”