If you and your partner agree to contribute financially towards your kids’ expenses above what the child-support agency (Department of Human Services) may calculate to be your legal obligations, you can make that financial-support agreement official and binding in one of two ways: a limited child support agreement (LSA), or a binding child support agreement (BCSA).
Perhaps the most significant differences between a LSA and a BCSA are:
- A LSA lasts for three years only; a BCSA lasts until a child is eighteen years (although this can be extended)
- Independent legal advice is not required for a LSA; independent legal advice is required for a BCSA
There are a few important things to consider with regard to both LSAs and BCSAs:
- Your agreement should be registered with the child-support agency so it can be enforced.
- Before you sign your final LSA or BCSA, your draft agreement should be approved by the child-support agency.
- Get specific advice from a family lawyer about the enforceability of what your agreement says about non-periodic child-support expenses. These are those irregular expenses that crop up from time to time, for example, extracurricular activities, and medical and school expenses.
- Consider including clauses in your agreement that stipulate what’s to happen regarding your respective financial obligations for the children if either you or your partner become ill, unemployed, suffer an injury, die, or either income increases above or drops below a certain amount.
- Have a think about including clauses that cover how you and your partner are going to pay your kids’ expenses. When considering this, also think about the degree of interaction you’re prepared to have with one another going forward and whether there is trust between you.
Here are a few ideas:
- Have a joint bank account where one or both of you contributes funds, and each person has a card that is used to pay for your kids’ expenses.
- Reimburse the parent who may have paid for the children’s expenses upfront.
- Get third parties to issue you and your partner separate invoices for their fees in the agreed portions. Sometimes third parties may not do this as both parents can be considered jointly severally liable, or the parent who registered the child for the activity is the one who is one hundred percent liable.
- Agree that parent A will pay to parent B a specified amount each week or month that is intended to cover all non-periodic and/or periodic expenses in relation to your child for the year. It is up to parent B to direct that payment towards the child’s various expenses.
It might be that you do one or a combination of the above ideas for different expenses, but it is important that you and your partner are both clear on how you’re actually going to carry out the agreement. There are benefits, risks, advantages and disadvantages to the above ideas that a lawyer is best placed to speak with you further about.