Can a child support agreement be terminated?

Can a child support agreement be terminated?

By cropped Clara Suki

· Read time: 4 minutes

Once they have been finalised, a child support agreement is difficult to vary. This is because they aim to protect the child and promote stability in their life. However, terminating a child support agreement is an option that can be undertaken if material factors in the child’s life changes. 

What is a child support agreement? 

A child support agreement is a formal document that enshrines parenting arrangements regarding a child, and covers issues such as child support payments. Both parents need to have obtained their own independent legal advice before creating an agreement. This requirement is important as it ensures that both parents understand the benefits and disadvantages that can arise as a result of a particular agreement. 

An agreement can cover a wide range of parenting issues such as: 

  • How time with the child is to be shared across parents
  • Travelling arrangements 
  • Schooling arrangements and fees 
  • Private health insurance matters
  • Medical fees 
  • Extracurricular activities 

When can a child support agreement be terminated? 

There are limited circumstances in which a child support agreement can be terminated. As mentioned above, such an agreement can be terminated and changed if large events have occurred in the child’s life and have made the existing agreement inadequate. 

For example, changes in living arrangements can affect other considerations regarding who is an ‘eligible carer’ for the child, which can become problematic if the party is still receiving child support payments. If a parent has less than 35% of caring responsibilities of the child, they may no longer meet the requirements of an ‘eligible carer’ and hence the existing child support agreement may become invalid and terminate. This would most likely trigger the need for a new assessment of the child’s living arrangements and result in the creation of a new or changed child support agreement. Decisions regarding the termination of a child support agreement should be considered carefully and you should consider seeking legal advice in these circumstances. 

The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 stipulates that a change in living or care arrangements may trigger an ‘interim period’ under which the current child support agreement can remain valid and continue to apply. Depending on your specific circumstances, this interim period may stop immediately or extend until 52 weeks. 

If, at the end of this interim period, a parent has less than 35% of the parental responsibility and continues to receive child support payments from the other parent, the existing agreement may be suspended. Whether or not child support payments are still payable during this period of suspension will depend on how such payments are calculated. If payments are subject to a formula based assessment, child support will still be payable. 

The length of suspension will depend on several considerations, such as: 

  1. Whether there is a provision within the child support agreement which provides for a longer suspension period 
  2. Whether the Child Support Registrar is satisfied that special circumstances apply
  3. Whether the parties have notified the Child Support Registrar and have agreed to a suspension period that is longer than 28 days

The termination of a child support agreement: 

Other ways to terminate a child support agreement include: 

  • Parents agreeing to terminate the agreement in writing
  • Through a Court setting aside the agreement through a Court Order made under section 136 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989
  • By having a new child support agreement being made 
  • Entering into a termination agreement 
  • By proving that ‘exceptional circumstances’ arose after the agreement was made and that these new circumstances cause hardship to either the child or a party to the agreement

The most common way of ending a child support agreement is through the creation of a new one. If you plan to end your child support agreement through the Court, it will be best to seek legal advice. 

Once a child support agreement has been terminated, it cannot be used again. A new agreement has to be made. 

If you need any assistance regarding your binding child support agreement, feel free to reach us via the contact form.  

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