One of the main considerations for separating parents to make is the best way in which to provide financial support to their children. One method is child maintenance, which is also known by the name of child support.
Eligibility to Child Maintenance: Parent with Care vs. Non-Resident Parent
Under child maintenance legislation, parents are provided the title of “parent with care” or “non-resident parent”, depending on their child’s place of residence. Any disputes with regard to a child’s residency can be resolved through the family courts. However, even when a court grants parents joint residency, child maintenance rules require one parent to be named the parent with care and the other to be named the non-resident parent. Child maintenance is money paid by the non-resident parent to the parent with care to help to provide for a child’s financial requirements.
Calculating Child Maintenance Payments
Both the parent with care and the non-resident parent are entitled to ask the Child Support Agency to calculate their child maintenance payments and set up payment arrangements. The Child Support Agency uses information provided by the parent with care and the non-resident parent to decide whether child maintenance is due and, if so, the amount that should be paid out each week. It may also seek to obtain information from other sources, such as the non-resident parent’s employer.
Child maintenance is worked out by applying one of four rates to the non-resident parent’s weekly income. These are: basic rate, which is based on a weekly income of $200 or more; reduced rate, which is based on a weekly income of more than $100 but less than $200 flat rate, which is based on a weekly income of between $5 and $100; and nil rate, which is based on a weekly income of less than $5.
This rate is then altered according to a range of factors, including: the number of other children residing with the non-resident parent, the number of other children the non-resident payment is required to pay child maintenance for, and the number of nights the child stays with the non-resident parent.
Child maintenance law requires the non-resident parent to transfer money to the parent with care, even when a child spends an equal amount of time living with both parents. This can put a child at risk of poverty whilst they are living with their non-resident parent, and the non-resident parent may be required to consult with the parent with care with regard to managing this situation.
Ending Child Maintenance Payments
The time over which the non-resident parent is required to provide child maintenance is dependent upon whether or not their child decides to continue in full-time education once they have turned 16 years of age. A non-resident parent can legally stop providing maintenance payments once their child has turned 16 years of age and has decided to leave full-time school. If their child decides to remain enrolled in full-time education between the ages of 16 and 19, they must continue to pay child maintenance. Child maintenance must be paid weekly, even when a child is on their school holidays. If a child leaves full-time education in the summer, the non-resident parent must continue to pay child maintenance until the first week of September of that year.
If the non-resident parent has several children and only one is over the age of 16, they must still pay child maintenance for all of the children who are under 16 years of age. As each child reaches their 16th birthday, the non-resident parent’s child maintenance payments can be reduced accordingly, until all of their children turn 16 years of age.
Non-resident parents and parents with care can receive detailed information on child maintenance issues from a range of organizations, including the Child Support Agency, the Child Maintenance Service, and the Instant Law Line.
Written by James Sheehan, a blogger with past legal experience