Our Legal Services

Family Law

Child support

It is important to accommodate for the whole family during legal disputes and we understand the individual needs for each family member.

We have expert child support and custody lawyers to aid you through the process.

The majority of children in Australia, of separated families, are covered by the Child Support scheme. The support payments for children in separated families are commonly agreed upon by each parent, or otherwise assessed and monitored by the Child Support Agency rather than the Courts. The amount of money payable is different in each case, is dependent upon the specific circumstances of the family and its income, and is based on the application of a statutory formula.

Whilst the introduction of this scheme in 1989 was designed to simplify the process, many variations to the standard formula have been developed over the years since then in order to accommodate differing family circumstances.

Our lawyers cut through the complicated jargon

Child support. Child custody.

At Watts McCray, our child support lawyers have extensive experience in working with the now quite complex associated laws. We understand that the payment of money by one partner to the other is often a sensitive issue so we will assist you to understand the law and its effect on your situation. Our lawyers will work with you to give you options should you feel that any Administrative Assessment issued by the Children Support Agency does not produce a fair and/or viable outcome in your particular circumstances. We can also assist in the preparation of private Agreements in more complex matters, or where families desire to keep the arrangements private.


What is Child Custody (parenting Orders)?

Well, actually, there is no such thing as ‘child custody’.  Why?  Because parents do not own their children. Parents have an obligation to protect their children’s rights until those children are old enough to make their own way in the world. At law that is until the age of 18 years.

Custody is still used by some people when they really mean where the child lives or spends most of their time. The Family Courts use the term live with to describe what used to be called custody and spend time with to describe what used to be called access. The other term commonly used in parenting matters is parental responsibility; that is the term to describe all the rights associated with making important decisions about a child’s welfare.

When the parents of the child separate, differences in their views as to how to raise their child tend to become much bigger issues. The law requires parents to attempt to resolve those issues by mediation with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP).  If parents can’t reach agreement, then it may be necessary to go to Court to get resolution of the dispute between them about how to raise their child.

Before meeting with the FDRP, it is a good idea to get advice from a family lawyer to discuss how the Family Law Act deals with parenting disputes. That lawyer can provide a helpful framework for a parent to participate in the mediation.


How much does it cost to hire a lawyer for child custody (parenting issues/parenting orders)?

The cost depends on the issues in dispute. If, for example, parents can’t agree on which school their child should attend, that is a less complex issue than a full blown dispute over which parent their child should live with.  Some issues can be resolved in the matter of months.  Sometimes disputes can go on for much longer. Lawyers will generally charge for the time they spend helping a parent with their dispute. Whether the lawyer charges on an agreed lump sum or whether they charge per hour engaged, the bigger the dispute the more it costs.


Who pays attorney/lawyer fees in child custody cases?

The general rule is that each person pays their own lawyer’s fees and the Court fees in parenting disputes. Sometimes, if the Court believes that one parent has acted in a manner which has been completely unreasonable and without any objective merit, the Court may order that person to pay a portion of the other parent’s legal fees. Bear in mind though that costs orders in parenting matters are unusual.


Can a Father be denied joint custody?

The Family Law Act is gender neutral. There is no inbuilt bias towards mothers or fathers. The Court is directed by the law to make a decision in a parenting dispute which is in the best interest the child as determined by the Court on an objective basis. The Court makes that decision after hearing the evidence from each of the parents and often from an independent social scientist that meets with the child and the parents and writes a recommendation and makes a recommendation to the Judge. Sometimes, in complex cases, the Court also appoints a separate lawyer to represent the child.  After weighing up all of the evidence, if it supports a shared care arrangement, then that may well be the result so long as the Court believes that it is practical to do so. That means, that the parents don’t live too far apart and they have similar parenting styles that will allow their child to grow and develop with consistent help from each parent.


  • By law both parents are required to support their child financially. In some cases this may involve one parent paying a child support payment to the other, to help with the costs of raising a child.

  • Child support laws in Australia allow for children with separated parents to be covered by the Child Support scheme, administered by the Child Support Agency. The scheme uses a formula, based on the income of both parents, the costs of raising children, the number of children in the family, and the amount of time each parent spends with their children whom they are required to financially support.

  • There are a number of steps that can be taken to dispute child support payments. If a parent believes the current child support payments are unfair, he or she can fill out an application with the Child Support Agency. If the Agency makes a decision which again is not favourable to the parent, further steps can be taken to have that decision reviewed.

    Changing child support decisions can be complex, and you should consult one of our experienced lawyers for assistance and specific advice.

  • In some situations of child support lawyers are not needed at all. Parents can make their own arrangements. These can be informal and unwritten or may be formalised in a written agreement called a Child Support Agreement. A Child Support Agreement, which is properly prepared and signed, is able to be enforced if one parent does not comply with it.

Do you have a question about family law or relationship law?

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