What is Child Support?

Child support is a payment made by one or both parents to the other to help with the cost of looking after the children. In some situations, it may be paid by one or both parents to another person who is looking after the children.

Different types of Child Support

A child support agreement can provide for periodic amounts (regular amounts payable on a regular basis) to be paid to the other parent or non-parent carer.

These may be paid directly to the other parent or non-parent carer, to their bank account, or to a third party acting as the agent of the payee, such as a solicitor or trustee.

Periodic child support can be adjusted for the costs of living by either the child support inflation factor or the Consumer Price Index or another adjustment factor identified by the child support agreement.

Non-periodic payment provisions

Where a child support agreement provides for child support to be paid otherwise than in the form of periodic amounts it may state that the annual rate of child support payable under the administrative assessment is to be reduced by a specified amount or percentage (up to 100%), which represents the annual value of the child support payable under the agreement.

Example: Shane agrees to pay school fees for Cindy of $5,000 per year. The fees are payable to Summer Heights High. Sharon’s  annual rate of child support is to be reduced by $2,500.

If the child support agreement does not specify how the amounts will reduce the child support payable, then they are not amounts under the non-periodic payment provisions in the CSA Act and will not reduce the annual rate of child support payable under the administrative assessment.

Lump sum payment provisions

Where a child support agreement provides for child support to be paid in the form of a lump sum:

  • it must be a binding agreement
  • it must state the lump sum payment is to be credited against the amount payable under the administrative assessment
  • there must be an administrative assessment in force prior to the application for acceptance being made
  • the amount of the lump sum must equal or exceed the current annual rate of the administrative assessment
  • the lump sum will be credited at the rate of 100% of the child support payable (unless the agreement specifies a lesser percentage).

The lump sum payment is credited against the payer’s liability under Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, rather than reducing the annual rate of child support payable under an administrative assessment. As at 1 July each year, the remaining lump sum credit is indexed in accordance with changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Other payments & benefits

A child support agreement may include provision for child support to be provided other than in the form of periodic amounts, but not specify how that payment is to reduce the child support payable.

An agreement may also include a provision for child support other than in the form of monetary payment, for example, the provision of goods or services.

If the agreement does specify the provision of goods, services, other payments or benefits then those arrangements will not have any effect on the child support assessment. The goods, services, payments or benefits conferred under the provision of the agreement will be in addition to any administrative assessment.

The additional goods, services, payments or benefits cannot be enforced or collected by the Registrar.

Child Support Agreement

Where both parties agree on how much support is to be paid and how, they can enter into a written agreement to that effect. The agreement is then registered with the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, who can collect and distribute payments as per the agreement.

It is important to obtain independent legal advice before entering into a Child Support Agreement. Commonwealth child support laws are designed to ensure the interests and wellbeing of the child are met while balancing the capacity of parents to support their child. It is important that you consider all of your options carefully and obtain accurate legal advice about which scenario is best for you.

The type of child support arrangement you enter into will depend mainly on your financial circumstances, but also on how well both parties are able to negotiate the terms of child support.

Our Child Support Lawyers can help you achieve the best possible arrangements that benefit your child’s welfare.

Child Support Assessment

An assessment is the most common type of support arrangement and involves DHS assessing the contributions to be made by both parties according to a set formula, which is set out in legislation. The formula takes into account both parties’ income and the amount of time each party cares for the child and then calculates the amount each party owes to each other. DHS will then collect and distribute payments to the parties. Assessments are automatically reviewed and reassessed by DHS after a set period of time, not usually more than 15 months.

Can I appeal a Child Support decision?

If you disagree with a child support assessment you have 28 days to notify CSA that you are objecting to a decision. The 28 days starts from the day you get the decision letter.

Objections can be raised where you believe CSA have:

  • used wrong or old information
  • not considered all the facts
  • missed important details
  • not applied the law correctly.
  • You can’t object to decisions regarding:
  • who is or isn’t a child’s parent – only a court can do this;
  • most things to do with collecting payments – this includes payment arrangement amounts, intercepting tax refunds and garnishing bank accounts;
  • changing a departure prohibition order – you can only appeal to a court; and
  • refusing a departure authorisation certificate – the Administrative Appeals Tribunal can review these.

Once the objection is received, CSA will review and consider your objection within 60 days. If they uphold their decision and you still disagree, you can make an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to review it.

Court ordered Child Support

An application can be made to the Family Court for support where the child in question is over 18 (an application for ‘child maintenance’) or where the child was born before 1 October 1989. Any parent or non-parent carer who cares for a child at least 35% of the time (‘time’ being the 12 month period from the dates the assessment commences) may apply for a child support assessment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. When an assessment by CSA has been completed and a parent is not meeting their payments obligations, CSA have the power to make arrangements to garnish wages and tax refunds. In extreme cases you can also be prevented from leaving the country.

Even if you do not have regular care of contact with your children, you are still required to pay child support. The family court will not reduce the amount of child support you owe because your former spouse has stopped you from seeing the children or there is a court order in place.

You can still have a child support arrangement if you or the other parent live overseas. But it must be in a country where the agreement can be enforced in Australia, called reciprocating jurisdictions, such as the USA, UK, Germany, and Hong Kong.

No. If you provide care for a child and aren’t the parent, you may be able to receive child support from both parents. You must apply for a child support assessment.

The child support assessment is designed to account for all of the child’s expenses, including school fees, excursions, uniforms and extra-curricular activities. It is the responsibility of the parent receiving the payment to allocate sufficient funds for the child’s educational needs.

When Services Australia calculates child support, they make an assessment factoring in the cost of a child attending a state school, not a private school.

It is not possible to force a parent to pay for private school fees unless there had previously been an agreement between the parents that the child would be educated in this manner. The best evidence of this intention is usually a parent’s signature on a school enrollment form.

If you are paying child support and your circumstances change, such as the child begins to live with you, when you will need to inform Services Australia for an updated assessment.  When an updated assessment is made, the other parent will be notified and provided with a copy of the assessment.

No. You cannot deduct items you purchase for the child from the amount you pay in child support. If you purchase items such as shoes, clothes or toys, it is considered a voluntary gift and credit will not be granted against the child support.

Generally, if child support is being collected privately and an over payment occurs, you may recover an overpaid amount directly from the recipient, either by reaching an agreement that the amount should be repaid or by applying to a court for a recovery order.

If you don’t pay your child support in full and on time, Services Australia may apply penalties on the outstanding amount. You pay the penalty amount to the Australian Government, not to the receiving parent. Services Australia also has the power to take overdue amounts directly from your wage, sale of assets and tax return. In extreme cases, Services Australia can also prevent you from leaving the country until your child support debt is paid.

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Thank you so much Kristdel! I was stressing about my separation and what it would involve and Kristdel could see I was very anxious so she let her black lab come into our consultation! It was so calming, I can’t thank you enough for being so empathetic.

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Friendly, professional and understanding staff. I was given great advice on what would be best to do in my situation and they handled it quickly, considered my wants/needs and made sure they were met and the whole process was stress-free. Couldn’t be more thankful for the great service.

Jaqcui

During this stressful time, I found Kristdel at The Family Lawyer to be particularly helpful. She demonstrated great empathy and responsiveness. She clearly outlined the options available to me, the pros and cons of each together with her final recommendation. As a result, I was confident that I was well informed and that she understood what was important to me. The issue was also resolved promptly and with a highly satisfactory outcome.

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Teodor

Kristdel helped with some much needed clarity in regards to financial obligations of a separation. Highly recommended

Simon

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Elizabeth

Kristdel is an amazing lawyer. That’s the vibe I got, from the first initial call. Very happy with the service, very professional and prompt, no jargon, 100% committed to my needs. Quick to respond and very thoughtful.

The Local Gardener

I highly recommend Kristdel for any family related matters. She is super responsive and helpful professional in all your family related requirements. I know her and the Family Lawyer firm for a long period now. And they are good partners to work with. Highly recommend.

Chamara

The team at the Family Lawyer were amazing. Kristdel was so calming and really helped me out during a hard and emotional time. She was upfront about how much everything was going to cost and kept things on track so it didn’t drag on. I don’t know where I would be without her. Thank you!

Kent

What our clients say…

Excellent service, they managed to show compassion for my stupidity, we laughed together

Elizabeth

The team at the Family Lawyer were amazing. Kristdel was so calming and really helped me out during a hard and emotional time. She was upfront about how much everything was going to cost and kept things on track so it didn’t drag on. I don’t know where I would be without her. Thank you!

Kent

Kristdel helped with some much needed clarity in regards to financial obligations of a separation. Highly recommended

Simon

I highly recommend Kristdel for any family related matters. She is super responsive and helpful professional in all your family related requirements. I know her and the Family Lawyer firm for a long period now. And they are good partners to work with. Highly recommend.

Chamara

Kristdel and the team have just helped me through a very difficult time. They were very professional, experienced and caring. I highly recommend The Family Lawyer.

Patrick

I had a really good experience the last few times I have visited their office. Great group of people to have on your side.

Sohail

During this stressful time, I found Kristdel at The Family Lawyer to be particularly helpful. She demonstrated great empathy and responsiveness. She clearly outlined the options available to me, the pros and cons of each together with her final recommendation. As a result, I was confident that I was well informed and that she understood what was important to me. The issue was also resolved promptly and with a highly satisfactory outcome.

Matt

Really happy with their service. Thank you.

Teodor

Extremely happy with the service I got, Christian was very professional and responsive he made sure everything was ready and nothing was left to chance. I got an outcome beyond what I expected!They were very accomodating with their fees.

Scott

Thank you Kristdel for doing both our Wills, very professional, helpful, friendly and efficient. Highly recommended.

Linda

Kristdel is an amazing lawyer. That’s the vibe I got, from the first initial call. Very happy with the service, very professional and prompt, no jargon, 100% committed to my needs. Quick to respond and very thoughtful.

The Local Gardener

Friendly, professional and understanding staff. I was given great advice on what would be best to do in my situation and they handled it quickly, considered my wants/needs and made sure they were met and the whole process was stress-free. Couldn’t be more thankful for the great service.

Jaqcui

Thank you so much Kristdel! I was stressing about my separation and what it would involve and Kristdel could see I was very anxious so she let her black lab come into our consultation! It was so calming, I can’t thank you enough for being so empathetic.

Harleigh

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