Child support is governed by the Child Support Agency, a federal statutory body. The Family Court does not generally have powers to deal with maintenance for children nor to order child support.
All applications for child support are directed to the Child Support Agency. The Registrar issues an assessment based on the income tax returns of the parties and based on the care arrangement for the children. The assessment of child support is based on a formula set out in the legislation.
There is a right of appeal for any decisions made by the Registrar. But once the appeal process, as set out in the legislation, is exhausted, then there is provision for applying to the Family Court, which can then hear an application for child support or vary any application for child support arrangement that has been decided by the Child Support Agency.
The parties can make their own arrangement for child support if they wish to do so. They can complete a child support agreement. If one party receives Centrelink or government benefits, then any child support set out in an agreement must be in excess of what the parties would pay by way of child support if the matter had been assessed by the Registrar of the Child Support Agency.
If the parties are both in employment and receiving an income, and apart from the care benefits of Centrelink for children, the parties can make their own arrangements in regard to the financial support of the children, and this can be set out in a child support agreement.
There are two recognised child support agreements, a simple agreement which does not require the legal advice of solicitors or a binding child support agreement where legal advice must be obtained. With a binding child support agreement, the solicitors sign a certificate attached to the agreement confirming that advice has been provided. A binding child support agreement is difficult to set aside whereby a limited agreement can be changed by the parties.