Child custody is a thorny issue. It’s fraught with disagreements, arguments, and sometimes legal consequences, all of which can impact you and your child’s life in many different ways.
Agreeing with a former partner on child custody rights is never easy. What with all the responsibilities from education, general care, and transport, even with child custody lawyers backing you up, navigating the legal system on these sensitive issues can be a minefield.
Here’s everything you need to know about child custody, paying for transport, food, school. You name it.
How do child custody laws work?
First, let’s take a look at how these laws actually work. In cases where mediation is needed, or the parents cannot come to a solution on their own – it’s ultimately the child’s best interests that will be determined by the court.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) also known as the parenting order sets out the legal parameters for child custody. It contains several different responsibilities that you should be aware of like;
- Who the child lives with and when
- Who bears primary responsibility for the child
- Who pays and carries out medical treatment
- Responsibility for the child’s education
- Who the child can visit or cannot visit
- When, where and how the child can travel
Who bears the cost of travel visitation?
What if your ex moves interstate? Overseas? Suddenly those travel costs for visitation are much larger than before and any agreement you had about visiting every week could now be in jeopardy.
Long distance parenting is no easy matter, and Australia is no small country, making the disconnect even more difficult in times of uncertain travel restrictions.
In this scenario, the Family Law Act does not specify that the parent who moves away must carry the extra cost of the child’s visitation to return and visit the other parent. This is irrespective of whether they move with or without the child.
So what does the law say about travel costs?
The law makes it very clear that both parents, no matter where they live are duty-bound to ensure that the child spends time with both parents – where it is reasonable to do so. Basically, it’s up to both parents to manage the costs, either 50/50 or otherwise to ensure the child spends time and communicates with both parents.
How do increased travel costs impact child support assistance?
If you’re a parent who is facing financial hardship due to increased costs associated with visiting the child, like transport, accommodation and related expenses you can ask the child support agency to re-assess your situation and adjust accordingly.
According to section 117 (2)(b)(i), this re-assessment can take place if the costs of maintaining the child are significantly affected because of the high costs involved in enabling a parent to spend time with, or communicate with, the child.
What are considered transport costs?
When estimating the increased cost of child visitation, it’s good to be aware of those things that are considered legitimate transport costs:
- Vehicle hire, fuel, and other vehicle-related expenses
- Road tolls
- Parking costs
- Train fares
- Internet and phone bill are also considered part of transport costs
What’s the fine print?
While the law recognises these added transport costs placed on a parent, there are a few conditions that must be met along the way:
- Entertainment, shopping, and personal expenses are not considered part of these costs. You can’t add on the warm coat you had to buy because you’re visiting your child down in Tasmania in the winter.
- All extra costs that can be recognised as legitimate in a re-assessment of child support must exceed 5% of the parent’s child support income. So don’t expect a bigger cheque.
- If the parent is only visiting the child between 52 and 172 nights in a year – only travel costs are included, no telephone or internet costs.
What other costs should I be aware of?
Travel costs may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child support and maintenance. Things like education, healthcare, and day-to-day living costs are all important matters to consider.
If you are taking the matter to court, there will also be added expenses of hiring a lawyer, and depending on the complexity of the case – this can get expensive.
Then there’s the emotional cost. Especially if you’re going to court, partners often claim their ex is mentally unstable, citing alcohol abuse, or drug problems to bolster their custody case. These court processes can be emotionally draining, not to mention difficult on the child too.
Get legal help today
Child cases are difficult and will involve family mediation and dispute resolution.
No matter where you are in your custody battle, whether it’s just become an issue, or you’re considering legal action, getting the help of child custody lawyers will give you the best chance of securing you and your child’s future.
Get in contact with family lawyers near you and receive qualified legal advice on child custody matters.
* This article is for general use only and does not constitute legal advice. For professional legal advice consult a mandurah lawyer.