Separating parents can arrange for ongoing financial support for their children between themselves or apply for assessment through Australia’s child support scheme. Child support comprises regular or periodic contributions by one parent of a child to the other parent or carer to meet the child’s ongoing welfare and maintenance.
Eligibility for Child Support
If your children spend most of their time with you, you will likely be entitled to child support payments. The amount of child support payable depends on your specific circumstances and may vary due to changes in the financial or personal circumstances of the parents or child.
Payments are determined and regulated by Services Australia and applications are made by the primary carer of a child or children.
Child support is payable for all children (including adopted children, children born through surrogacy and children from same sex relationships) until they turn 18 years. If a child turns 18 in the year he or she is completing secondary school then an application can be made for child support to continue until the child completes schooling.
In some cases, child maintenance may be payable for children over 18 years who are in full-time study, or who have a physical or mental disability. Applications for child maintenance are made under the Family Law Act 1975 and, if ordered, payments may also be collected by Services Australia.
How are childcare payments calculated?
A complex yet flexible formula is used to calculate child support payments. Various factors are considered, such as:
- the length of time the child spends with each parent/carer;
- the costs of raising children relative to specific age ranges and the capacity for the parents to meet those costs;
- the respective income of each parent;
- each parent’s responsibility for supporting other children;
- the age of the child and other children in the care of each parent;
- the basic living needs of each parent.
Child support payments are linked to Family Tax Benefit – accordingly the amount of child support received will influence the amount of Family Tax Benefit paid.
Online calculators on the Department’s website can help you estimate both child support and family assistance payments. Remember though, these calculators provide an estimate only as the calculation is quite complex and tailored to each individual situation.
Can I appeal an unfair decision about paying child support?
Either parent may object to an assessment which may sometimes not fully consider any special or unusual needs of a child or the circumstances of a parent or carer.
Alternatively, a parent or carer’s circumstances may change or there may be a change in care arrangements, which justify a review. This may be due to loss of a job or health related matters. In these cases, a parent or carer may lodge an application to change assessment and the parties will be notified in writing of the decision reached.
If either party is still unhappy with the decision, an objection may be lodged within 28 days with an internal review of the decision taking place within 60 days. After the objection is considered, there may be further grounds for appeal through a specialist division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
In some cases, parentage may be challenged through a court and/or DNA testing. These matters are highly emotive, challenging, and complex and parties to such proceedings should be guided by an experienced lawyer.
What if my ex-partner won’t pay?
Services Australia has the power to investigate and enforce child support payments which includes the power to collect payments from employers, the Australian Taxation Office and through social security payments. It also has the power to stop people from leaving the country while there are outstanding payments.
We understand that child support issues can be sensitive and difficult to work through. We can help you navigate the laws and processes involved and provide advice to ensure that the obligations to contribute financially to your child’s care and welfare are fair and reasonable.