If I gave one piece of advice in the early days of the cruel, nasty part of separation it is – to let the government handle your child support. It takes the pressure off both parties and the emotion, in an already volatile situation. For me, that included an Australian Airport Watch list as well.
Both parties may never reach an agreement on what is fair, however, leaving it in the hands of the government gave me the satisfaction and solution I needed as an absentee father who wanted to avoid responsibility.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert and cannot offer you any legal advice, all I can offer is my story, based in Australia.
I had the advice of a friend very early on in my separation and got in fairly early with the government offered Child Support. In our case, the government arm decided based on the income we had made together with our joint business (and now being run by one) that a set amount should be paid to the party that has primary time with the children.
I guess that was unacceptable. Despite legal court orders that allow him to call twice a week, plus spend time, April marks 4 years since my children have heard from or seen their father. No happy birthdays, no texts, no child support, nothing. They do not know why. I do not know what to tell them. I suspect it could be the ever-climbing debt, but I cannot be sure.
Either way, I knew from the early days of appeal after appeal that I would never be able to rely on that money. And that wasn’t new news for me. After all, I had run a successful blog for 5 years that supported our family.
So instead of waiting for an improbable payday, I took control of my own circumstances. In the last 5 years, I’ve taken professional travel blogging next level, and Explore with Erin has taken off and I managed to save a substantial amount of savings and buy a house while 100% financially supporting my kids.
Well, that’s a lie. My parents have been the second parent to my children emotionally and financially. I will never be able to repay them.
And more recently my partner of 5 years has also been taking on a serious father role to my kids. Doing more for them than their blood father or child support has.
One day, I am sure the kids will get what is owed to them, and hopefully that day they can attend a private school or go to University or get married, without debt.
That’s a quick overview of my experience on the topic, so let’s proceed.
Things To Know Before
Child Support starts from the day you apply, so don’t delay. Even if you never end up using the government to collect the funds, at least you will be covered.
You can have Child Support set up even if one person does not live in Australia, just check the country has a reciprocal agreement.
Government Child Support is not the only way. I’ve questioned multiple friends and there are so many other ways if you have a partner who is stepping up to his responsibilities.
* A bank account for the child where funds can be taken out for the express purpose of the child/ren eg. school fees, medical, dental, extracurricular activities, clothes, birthdays, etc. Both parties can see where the money is going. Of course, these funds don’t take into account housing, bills, or food, but it’s a good start.
* Another option is private collect. If your separation was agreeable and each party has agreed to a fair situation, payment can be made into a personal bank account. I have had numerous parents tell me this rarely works. It has backfired on both parties, since unless both agree the funds are child support – either can claim it isn’t.
* Other arrangements include where one partner pays primarily for private schooling, etc.
Any other ideas? I’d love to know how you have your child support funding set up in the comments below.
Also, make sure you have a will, child support can affect it. I used Safewill, which can be done online in less than 15 minutes. Use my discount code: FREEWILL100.
How do they calculate child support in Australia? Determine your legal amount with the Child Support estimator.
More information can be found here – https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/your-child-support-options
Or a Parent’s Guide here.
How long do you pay child support in Australia?
Normally child support stops when your child turns 18. If your child’s in the secondary study, you can apply to extend it to the end of the school year.
How to set it up
The easiest way to apply is online.
Self-employment can make things tricky and a fair amount of paperwork is required. If you have a regular job it’s quite straightforward. Once done you can rest assured they will chase down your payments either from the person, the job, or other means.
What they look for
You’ll need to provide bank statements, proof of employment, court orders, superannuation statements, etc. Do remember that every call is recorded and added as a transcript and given to the other party, so be careful lying, they will catch you out.
Claiming to be a citizen of 3 different countries doesn’t work when you’ve paid taxes in one your entire life. And if you claim no tax, because of no income, there are ways to prove income through bank statements, etc. The department has the power to set an income level for you that increases automatically each year, even if you claim your income is zero.
How to defend an appeal
If an appeal is made they may require a lot more from you so it helps to keep records handy of anything that may support your case, from emails to passports, further bank statements, court financials, etc.
Be thorough. Respond to every accusation with proof and a concise explanation. Don’t get frustrated at the staff, they only have what they’ve been told so it’s your job to tell them everything. Painful as it can be.
An appeal is usually done internally and no presence is required. Outcomes are revealed via email or post.
Having lived through at least 3 appeals I can safely say they are diligent. And as long as you have evidence you should receive affirmative action.
Failure to pay
Having the amount sorted doesn’t ensure someone pays though. If they are in Australia it’s fairly easy. It can be deducted from wages, bank accounts, and even superannuation (I am told).
However, if your partner lives outside of Australia things can get more difficult. Countries like the USA and Hong Kong have reciprocal agreements so it won’t matter. Places like Israel won’t. But before you Google which countries don’t, be prepared to back up your story. Saying you’re an Israeli citizen, when you’ve visited the country twice – with your family for a few weeks, won’t convince them and you will be denied, even with an Israeli passport.
If you attempt to travel outside of Australia with a child support debt you can be stopped at the airport by Federal Police. This is called a Departure Order. You need to call and request a departure order, they are not put in place automatically. I was told this can be done once the debt is over $3,000 (but don’t quote me!).
Australia has a fairly strict stance on child support. And if you do not pay you are not allowed to leave its borders. The government believes if you can afford a vacation, you can afford to support your kids. And you will literally be stopped from getting on your plane until payment is made.
I received two lump-sum payments of $6k during the first year of my separation via airport arrests. Embarrassing. Just don’t do it.
At one stage you were happy enough with your partner to lovingly make a child or two (well in most cases). Through all the relationship problems those children should not need to go through any more change than they have and keeping their lifestyle standards should be important to both parents.
I have heard the arguments raised, “if she wants the kids, she can pay for them.” But it’s not reasonable. They are not her kids. The first thing you learn in therapy or even at court is that you refer to them as, ‘our children.’.
They require food, shelter, clothes, schooling, birthdays, etc. If mum needs a babysitter because she has the children, who will pay for that? If the kids are sick and dad needs to miss work, who pays for that?
I keep a budgeting app and I can tell you that without housing, food, or bills my kids cost roughly 15% of my monthly income. Note this is for under 10. Of course, as children grow they eat more, they need more clothes, more books, and more funds.
These beautiful children are both ya’ll responsibility. Why would you not want to ensure they receive the best possible life experience within or outside your household?
“But she is going to use the money on going out to dinner with her girlfriends.” Quite possibly she will use some of her money to do that, but that doesn’t mean she is not also paying for the children’s babysitter that night or their dinner or the roof over their head. It’s called Child Support because it’s funding to support the children.
The best videos to watch on the subject and hopefully help with your understanding:
The Real Issue with Child Support?
- Women who spend it on themselves, not the child.
- A man may not be able to afford child support.
- Child support doesn’t account for the contributions of the primary carer (they don’t have a financial ceiling) – nightmares, sickness, acting-out episodes, bad grades, anxiousness, stress, etc.
Child Support should only be for baby things
- Video here.
- As long as your child is being taken care of you need to do your part.
- Instead of being worried about Child Support, perhaps be worried about supporting your child.
Explore With Erin Wrap Up
Every moment of our life we make decisions that create our future. Choosing our children over our blog was the best decision of my life. I still travel, I still run a successful blog, I still write, and each day I still see my children laugh and grow and play and love.
Nothing would ever make me leave them. Nothing. I didn’t even realize that could be a choice.
I am blessed. And I know my blessings are from choosing love, family, selflessness. And I encourage you, even when you face the hardest and most painful decisions, to choose what is right, noble and good. To choose them over yourself.
If you need help with child support or just a friendly ear please reach out. I am not able to offer you any legal advice, but I can offer you help. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
And 5 years later I can let you know the kids and I are happy, at peace and free. Oh, and we take care of our own needs. Like a boss.
P.S. Thanks to everyone who brought us through this period and who has been a surrogate parent to my kids: my father, my mother, my sisters, my boyfriend, my best friend, my overseas friends, even my ex-mother in law. My kids lack for nothing because of my tribe. And that is a beautiful thing.
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