Binding Child Support Agreements – Make Sure You Get it Right

Child Support Agreement

Don't get stuck with a dodgy Child Support Agreement!! We often have clients come in to see us who have previously agreed to pay or receive child support but haven't thought about all of the other things that crop up throughout their kids' lives.

A Binding Child Support Agreement is a binding contract between parents about child support payments. It can include an administrative assessment from the Department of Human Services, or it can opt out of an assessment. It can also cover other payments in relation to the children, like school fees, school-related expenses, extra-curricular activities, health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Binding Child Support Agreements last until each child turns 18 years of age (or until any other terminating event that might be set out in the Agreement). It is therefore important to carefully think about what each child needs or may require as they get older, and to make sure that this is covered in the Agreement. If the Agreement opts out of an administrative assessment by the Department of Human Services, they are unable to step in and help retrieve money from one parent. So you want to make sure you get it right!

If you do get stuck with a problematic child support agreement, it is very difficult to have a court set it aside.  A court can set aside the agreement if "exceptional circumstances" occur after the agreement is made, that would cause "hardship" if the agreement was not set aside. This is a very high threshold. Changes in employment and income, the birth of new children and even changes in the care arrangements for children are not always sufficient to satisfy the court that there are "exceptional circumstances."

Parties need to consider things such as:

  • Will the children be attending private school?
  • Will they need to attend long day-care or before and after school care?
  • How many activities will the children be involved in outside of school and who will pay for the cost of these plus other items such instruments, uniforms, costumes, sportswear and equipment?
  • What happens if the children need medical attention throughout their childhood such as operations, braces, physiotherapy or counselling?
  • What kind of health insurance cover are the children under and is this the top level of full cover? 

These Agreements should set out clearly what is to be paid for and should avoid broad and vague terminology. The less room for uncertainty means the less conflict for parents later down the track.

 At Fox & Staniland we draft Binding Child Support Agreements in such a way to ensure that we consider all incidentals that may arise in relation to the children. We also assist clients to enforce Binding Child Support Agreements where payments are not being made or where the drafting has left the parties unclear as to their obligations.