Grasping the Child Support System

March 31, 2018

The Child Support Scheme is administered by the Child Support Agency, which is part of the Department of Human Services. The Scheme aims to make sure that children get a sufficient amount of financial support from both parents following a separation.

What are the eligibility criteria?

Before the Department of Human Services accepts an application for a child support assessment, they need evidence that both the mother and father listed on the application are the legal or biological parents of the child.

For example, you must show one of the following:

  • The parents were married when the child was born;
  • The parents are named on the child’s birth certificate;
  • The male parent was living with the mother between 20-44 weeks before the child was born;
  • Adoption papers list both parents;
  • A Court has found that the person is a parent of the child.

The formula for assessing child support

Child support payments are payable when there is a child support assessment, a court order or an agreement between parents, which has been documented and lodged with the Department of Human Services. The child support formula is designed to provide a balanced way of working out child support payments, taking into account different family circumstances. It’s based on the income of each parent (after allowing a self support amount), the care arrangements for the child and the age of the child.

Child support agreements

Both parents can make a formal agreement about child support payments. For example, one parent might agree to pay for school fees or healthcare costs. If you wish to enter into a binding child support agreement, you are required to get legal advice before entering into the agreement.

How child support payments are made and received

Child support payments can be transferred privately between parents and this is referred to a “Private Collect”. They can also be collected and transferred by the Department of Human Services and this is referred to as “Child Support Collect”. Private collection is suitable for parents who are able to communicate with each other about child support, who want flexibility in the way they make payments, and when they are in a situation where payments can be made reliably. Child Support Collect is preferable if you do not wish to have any direct involvement with the other parent, or if the receiving parent requires support enforcing payments on time.

If your circumstances change

If your situation changes and it affects your child support arrangements, you can apply to the Department of Human Services for a re-assessment of your payments. If one parent moves outside Australia, the Child Support Agency may be able to assist in collecting and transferring child support payments. Child support systems vary from country to country, so there may be a delay before a parent receives their payments.

If you need help navigating the child support system, the best thing you can do is seek legal advice from a reliable family lawyer. Paterson & Dowding is a Perth-based firm of Family Lawyers and Divorce Lawyers with experience in parenting matters such as child support, living and care arrangements, divorce and more. Whether you need assistance in setting up new child support arrangements, or dealing with a change in circumstances, Paterson & Dowding can offer practical advice to ensure the best outcome for your family. To find out more about the child support system, call Paterson & Dowding on 08 9226 3300 or visit

Dating After Divorce

March 4, 2018

The idea of dating again following a divorce can be daunting and overwhelming, especially if it’s been a while since your dating days.

You may wonder if there’s a ‘right’ time to start dating again.  Are you ready?  What to do on a date, what to expect, how to go about it, what to talk about, what to wear, where to go?  Taking that first step can be confusing and intimidating but the truth is, there are no rules to dating after divorce and everyone’s experience will be unique.

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How to Divide Your Property after Separation

February 3, 2018

You can do this at any time after you separate from your partner – you don’t need to wait until your divorce is finalised. There is in fact a 12 month time limit from the date of your divorce within which you may apply for property division or spousal maintenance orders in the Family Court of Western Australia, without having to seek special permission of the Court.

Before the Family Court can consider making any order at all, it must be satisfied that it would be just and equitable to do so. In most cases, this threshold issue is met merely by the fact that you have separated – which often means that you cannot continue to use your jointly owned property or rely on your previous joint financial relationship.

The Court will then follow a four step process when assessing your property division dispute. Those steps require the Court to –

  • Identify and value your assets and liabilities, including any superannuation;
  • Look into the past and consider each of your financial and non-financial contributions to the acquisition, conservation or improvements to your property, as well as contributions as homemaker and parent. The Court will make a preliminary percentage division based on these “contributions” only;
  • Look into the future and assess both of your ongoing needs and personal and financial circumstances. It will then make a finding whether any adjustment to the preliminary division made at step 2 is necessary;
  • Consider the effect of the findings at steps 2 and 3 and make an order that is just and equitable in all the circumstances.

What are your assets worth?

Try to reach agreement with your ex-partner about the value of your assets, liabilities and superannuation. If not, try to estimate the value of your assets such as homes, cars and businesses. You should obtain documents that provide the current balances of your superannuation; bank accounts, loans, credit cards or other debts.

If you can’t reach agreement with your ex-partner about the value of items, you will have to appoint experts to value them. There are very specific rules that apply to the appointment of experts and the use of their evidence. You should contact your lawyer before you obtain any valuations to avoid spending a lot of money on an expert report you cannot use.

Can you and your “ex” agree on a property settlement?


We at Paterson & Dowding encourage you to negotiate an out-of-court settlement if at all possible. We will advise you about alternative dispute resolution methods. We are experienced negotiators and mediators. We often conduct or represent clients at Mediation Style Conferences and informal settlement conferences.

If you and your ex-partner reach an agreement by negotiation or mediation, we strongly recommend that you record the terms of the agreement in the form of a consent order filed at the Family Court. This will create certainty and provide the Court with power to enforce the orders if necessary.

Always seek reliable legal advice

Property settlement, spousal maintenance and separating your financial relationship can be a daunting task, particularly when you are also dealing with the emotions of separating. You may have to make important decisions that will affect your future financial security.

You should always for peace of mind, obtain legal advice either before you start negotiating, or after you have reached an agreement in principle, to ensure that you obtain a fair settlement.

Paterson & Dowding is a Perth based firm of family and divorce lawyers. We have a wealth of experience in property division matters from simple to complex matters involving family companies, family trusts and self-managed superannuation funds. We are experienced negotiators and mediators. For timely and practical advice, call Paterson & Dowding on (08) 9226 3300 or visit our website at

Splitting Your Investment Property During A Divorce

January 5, 2018

Reaching a decision to end a marriage or a de facto relationship is an extremely emotional experience for most people.

Navigating all the logistics of the separation can be exhausting and overwhelming, and separating couples can find it extremely difficult to forge a way forward in both matters of the heart and the head.

Most married or de facto couples acquire assets (and liabilities) during their relationship and conflict can often arise when it comes to dividing these up in the event of a separation.  This ‘property and finance’ may include real estate (such as the family home and investment properties), motor vehicles, furniture, interests in businesses, shares, superannuation and money in banks or other financial institutions.

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Gender Dysphoria in Children – Landmark decision of the Full Court of the Family Court

December 1, 2017




What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is when a person’s physical gender conflicts with the gender with which they identify.

Stages of treatment

Hormone treatment for gender dysphoria in children occurs in two stages.

Stage 1 treatment is seen to be largely reversible. It involves the child taking puberty blockers to prevent the development of secondary sexual characteristics such as the development of breasts, body hair and vouch breaking. They can be used safely for three to four years. Prior to the Full Court’s decision of Re Jamie (2013), parents of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria required the Family Court’s approval to authorise Stage 1 treatment.

Stage 2 treatment is seen as being more irreversible. It involves administering cross-sex hormones that cause a child to develop pubertal characteristics of the sex with which they identify. For example, voice depending is irreversible while breast development requires surgery to reverse. Stage 2 usually commences when the child turns 16 years. Parents of a child previously needed to apply to the Family Court for approval for their child to undergo Stage 2 treatment.

New approach

The Family Court has recently held in the decision of Re Kelvin (2017), that it is no longer mandatory to apply to the Family Court for orders approving Stage 2 treatment of a child with gender dysphoria where:

  • The child consents to the treatment;
  • The treating medical practitioner agrees that the child has sufficient maturity and competence to give that consent; and
  • The parents of the child consent to that treatment.

Reason for new approach

The Full Court has held that the risks involved in irreversible treatment no longer outweigh the therapeutic benefits to the child such that Court intervention is required.

Facts of Re Kelvin (2017)

In the Kelvin case, the subject child was born a female and had fulfilled the criteria for gender dysphoria from 9 years old. He had transitioned socially and was living as a male.

He had not undergone Stage 1 treatment and going through female puberty had caused him significant distress.

At 17 years old, Kelvin wished to commenced Stage 2 treatment. Both of his parents supported him in his application.


Parents of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria who satisfy the above requirements will no longer be faced with the expenses (in some cases), delay, uncertainty and stress of court proceedings.

A huge breakthrough for families with gender disordered children.

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