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Money Matters – Maintenance and Child Support

De facto entitlements
Erin Smyth | 25 June, 2011

The end of a relationship marks the beginning of the necessity to make new lifestyle decisions. Where will I live, who will care for the children, who will pay the children’s school fees, how will I manage financially and how will assets be divided?

If you are struggling to make ends meet you may seek relief by way of maintenance payments from the other party under the Family Law Act (the Act). Amendments to the Act now allow for de facto couples, not only married couples, to apply to the Family Courts and seek de facto maintenance payments from their ex partner.

The Family Court must consider certain principles before a de facto maintenance application is made into a Court Order, these principles are the same to those considered in spousal maintenance applications. In de facto maintenance applications the Court is required to apply the principle that a party to a de facto relationship ordinarily must maintain the other party in the de facto relationship:-

  • only to the extent that that party is reasonably able to do so; and
  • only if the person making the de facto maintenance application is unable to support himself or herself due to factors such as: being the primary parent of a child (under 18 years of age) from the de facto relationship or by reason of age or the physical or mental incapacity to obtain gainful employment

This test may look relatively easy to satisfy but the Courts have generally imposed a high standard of proof for applicants to satisfy in order to receive actual maintenance payments

The changes to the Act also benefit children of de facto couples as now a parent of a child in a de facto relationship can apply for child support payments from the other parent.

Child support is the financial support each child is entitled to receive from both of their parents. The Child Support Agency (‘the Agency’) is the organisation that the parent who is predominantly caring for the children must apply to in order to receive payments from the other parent.

When a parent in need of payments first contacts the Agency that parent will be asked to provide information such as whether both parents are Australian residents or citizens, what the citizenship of the children is, the income of both parents and the current care arrangement in place for the children. Once this initial process is completed the Agency will contact the other parent and also the Australian Tax Office to confirm the paying parent’s income.

Factors that are taken into account by the Agency when determining how much child support should be paid are for example: the costs of raising children, the income of both parents, the care each parent provides to the children and whether the paying parent is responsible for supporting any other dependent, biological or adopted children.

The nature of the breakdown in relationships usually makes it difficult for these matters to be resolved without third party intervention. Nonetheless parties to a breakdown should first try all avenues to resolve their differences.

Erin Smyth is a Lawyer at Camatta Lempens Adelaide who specializes in Family Law matters and de facto matters - phone 08 84100211.

go to Erin Smyth's Bio at Camatta Lempens Lawyers

About Erin Smyth

Erin has a Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice and a Bachelor of Arts. Erin has practised exclusively in family law and de facto law since completing her degree in 2007. Erin commenced as an Associate of Camatta Lempens in July 2009. She has experience in all areas of family law and de facto property matters and also matters involving children more...

What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the


are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.


plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

Often, single mums come out of a


or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

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