Child Support Information for Legal Professionals

Legal practitioners play an important role in the administration of the Child Support Scheme.

Solicitor's Hotline

Legal practitioners can call our hotline for help with handling child support matters, including drafting agreements or court orders. Call 1800 004 351 or 1800 180 272 for international cases.

Parents receiving legal advice must get a legal certificate

We require legal practitioners to complete a legal certificate to verify that parents received legal advice before entering into a binding agreement for Child Support.

Most parents who separate will come to us for information about the amount, types and collection of Child Support. The legal profession also plays an important role in the administration of the Child Support Scheme.

As a legal practitioner, you may be asked for advice in matters such as:

Change of assessment in special circumstances

If parents believe the Child Support assessment we make is unfair they can ask us to change that assessment.

To be successful, they must be able to establish special circumstances under one or more of the 10 change of assessment reasons, and that it would be fair to both parents, the children and the community to change the assessment. Parents cannot have a representative appear for them during the change of assessment process.

If parents think the change of assessment decision is wrong, parents usually need to seek an administrative review from us before going to court. The initial step is for one or both parents to object to the decision. Most objection decisions can be appealed to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). The SSAT decision can be appealed to court if there has been an error of law (or to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if the decision is about care of the children of the case). The parents may want to engage lawyers to represent them in this process.

Child Support agreements

Parents may decide to make an agreement about the amount and form of Child Support to be paid as an alternative to an assessment made by us. There are two types of agreements—limited agreements and binding agreements. Parents may want to involve a lawyer in drafting a Child Support agreement.

If parents enter into or want to end a binding agreement they must get legal advice. We require legal practitioners to complete a certificate to verify that parents received legal advice before entering into a binding agreement for Child Support.

For the purposes of Child Support, we will not accept an agreement that has been certified by an overseas lawyer if they have not been admitted by the Supreme Court of a state or territory of Australia, or a Federal court, or they do not hold a current practising certificate.

Parentage

Sometimes we are unable to accept an application for Child Support or add a child to an existing assessment because the applicant is unable to satisfy the requirements for presumption that one or both parties are parents of a child named in the application.

The applicant will sometimes need to apply to a court for a declaration of eligibility and may need to be represented by a lawyer in those proceedings. Any declaration will often be made on the basis of parentage testing.

A person who is required to pay Child Support for a child may apply to a court for a declaration that they should not be assessed to pay Child Support because they are not a parent of the child. The applicant may prefer to be represented by a lawyer in those proceedings. Any declaration will often be made on the basis of parentage testing.

Appeals against decisions

Parents can formally object to most decisions we make. Most objection decisions can be appealed to the SSAT. The SSAT decision can be appealed to the court if there has been an error of law (or to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if the decision is about care of the children of the case). The parents may want to engage lawyers to represent them in this process.

You need to know

Legal certificate for Child Support agreements

A legal practitioner is required to complete a legal certificate to verify the parents received legal advice before entering into a binding agreement for Child Support.

This is the annexure to a binding agreement, as required by the Australian Department of Human Services under Section 80C of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

Resources

The Legal Practitioner's Guide

The Legal Practitioner's Guide is a joint project of the Family Law Council, the Family Law section of the Law Council of Australia and the Department of Human Services.

It provides precedents for court orders and Child Support agreements made under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

By using The Legal Practitioner's Guide, family law practitioners can make sure a court order or agreement reflects the parents’ intentions and can be administered by us.

It will also help their clients get court orders and enter agreements that properly balance their wish for finality and their need for flexibility, while providing their children with a proper level of financial support.

The Child Support Guide

The Child Support Guide is our technical resource, which outlines our approach to the administration of the Child Support Scheme.