Chatswood Family Lawyers

How does child support and custody work?

When you decide to separate, the interest of your children is always of paramount importance. However, it is often difficult for parties to agree on future arrangements, as they tend to have different views on what is best for their children.
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Prior to going to Court, you will be required to attend Family Dispute Resolution before the commencement of your child custody dispute. It is required that you make a genuine attempt to reach an agreement with the other parent. Except for urgent cases involving domestic violence, child custody disputes will only be heard by the Court after you have received a certificate issued by a family dispute resolution practitioner.

If you do arrive at a common ground with your former partner with the help of a lawyer or dispute resolution practitioner, a consent order can be filed with the Court on your behalf. Once approved by the Court, the parenting arrangements encompassed by the consent order will become legally binding. If those arrangements are not abided to, the Court has the power to enforce the consent order.

It is also common for separated couples to make informal agreements in relation to their children. If you decide to do this then it is crucial that both you and your former partner receive legal advice before finalising the agreement. This is because any negotiations with your former partner as can influence other matters relating to child support and your property.


Child support payments can be transferred privately to the primary caregiver of the children or the Department of Social Services Australia can collect the payments on a parent’s behalf. The Department ensures that child support is paid by deducting the support payment from the other parent’s wage, intercepting tax returns and deducting government payments. In cases of difficult ex-nuptial partners, the Department can also prevent a parent from leaving Australia without the payment of any debts as well as further litigation to recover the child support debt. In these cases, it is advisable you visit Chatswood Family Lawyers to discuss these options in order to recover your debt.

Child support payments are calculated using the combined income of both parents to reflect the child or children’s needs. These needs are calculated on the costs of raising a child in accordance with the incomes of both parents, as well as a consideration of both parent’s contributions to the child. These agreements can be negotiated as to the amounts, methods of payment and frequency however you are advised to obtain legal advice to ensure these orders are in accordance with legislation to ensure their enforcement.


Parenting plans are written agreements between parents concerning the child’s development and welfare. The court is legally required to have a child’s best interest in mind when doing so. Parenting orders cover matters such as who the child will live with and how parenting responsibility will be shared.

The Court cannot primarily base its decision on a child’s wishes. The weight to which the Court can give a child’s opinion will largely depend on the age of the child as well as their level of maturity. This means that usually when a child is under 10 years of age their wishes are not taken into consideration.

However, many other factors are considered by the Court when making parent orders, including:

Each parent’s ability to provide for the needs of the child
The child’s relationship with members of his/her family including siblings, grandparents and each parent
Each parent’s willingness to encourage a close and lasting relationship between the child and the other parent
Any domestic violence incidents within the family as well as any aggravating factors which would impact on the children’s safety.
The ability of the parents to communicate with each other
The ability of each parent to look after the children
The distance which each parents lives from each other
Other relevant factors


Under Australian Family Law, parenting arrangements are made based on the best interest of the child, noting that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. Parents do not have outright legal rights to the custody of their children, but instead have the responsibility to ensure their welfare.

The court can make parenting orders concerning the amount of time a child spends with their grandparents with the child’s best interest in mind. These orders can be made before, during or after the separation. Factors the court might consider include the child’s relationship with his or her grandparents as well as their role in the emotional and intellectual development of the child.

Our Family and Divorce Lawyers at Chatswood Family Lawyers understand that when it comes to your children, every little detail is important. We are here to support you in every step in this very important phase of your life.


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