Payments for children
How is the amount of child support set?
Paying child support is designed to help meet the cost of caring for and raising your children when they are not living with you under your care. Typically, child support is paid to one of the children's parents, but it can also be paid to non-parent carers in some situations.
There are four ways of deciding how much child support should be paid:
- based on informal arrangements with the other parent
- through a formal agreement with the other parent
- by applying for a child support assessment from the Department of Human Services, or
- asking for a decision from the Family Court, in some limited situations.
Regardless of which method you use, the aim should be the same: to provide financial support for your children when they are not in your care. How much child support you should pay will depend on:
- how much time each parent has the children in their care
- each parent's income, basic living expenses, and other obligations (such as raising other children)
- the number of children, their ages and their needs.
What are my options for how is child support collected?
This will depend on your income, the other person’s income and how much time the child lives with each of you as well as other factors such as whether you have other children you also need to support.
What is child support?
After separation both parents must provide financial support for their children to the other parent or carer of the child (including adopted children). Carers can include grandparents or other people who have the child in their care.
The parent who pays is called the payer parent. The carer who receives the support is called the payee parent/carer.
Does a parent have to pay child support if they are not spending any time with their child?
Yes, even if a parent does not spend any time with their child, they will need to pay child support. The amount of child support that they have to pay may depend on how much time a child spends with each of their parents.
What is a formula (administrative) assessment of child support?
The Department of Human Services DHS (Child Support) uses a formula to work out how much child support should be paid. You can do an estimate for yourself on the DHS website. The formula takes into account:
- both parents’ income
- whether you are supporting other children
- the amount of time you care for the children (your “care levels”)
- the costs of raising children (including the number of children you have and their ages)
- the basic living needs of parents
You can ask the DHS (Child Support) to review the amount of child support at any time if your circumstances have changed.
What is a child support agreement?
You and the other parent can agree about how much child support should be paid. You should seek legal advice about this.
You can also have an informal or private agreement with the other person about child support. An informal agreement can still impact on how much Centrelink you get.
How does the collection and enforcement of child support payments happen?
Child support payments can be transferred privately, such as by direct debit. This agreement does not have to be in writing.
You can also arrange for the DHS (Child Support) to collect child support payments whether payments are to be made under an administrative assessment or a child support agreement.
Does child support still have to be paid when the child and the receiving parent live overseas?
If either the payer parent or the payee parent live overseas, child support may still be payable. You should get legal advice if this applies to you.
In what circumstances might we need to ask the Family Court to sort out our child support matter?
The DHS (Child Support) deals with most child support matters. However, you may have to apply to the Family Court about Child Support Agreements, some assessment changes, arrears in payments, child maintenance payments and when one person is overseas.
If I am eligible to receive child support, do I have to insist that the other parent pays?
If you receive a pension or benefit from Centrelink, you must take reasonable steps to get child support within 13 weeks of separating. Centrelink may stop paying you the pension or benefit if you don’t. There are exceptions to this, for example when the other parent is violent.
When do I have to pay child maintenance for my children after they turn 18?
You may still have to pay child maintenance for your ‘adult’ children if they need to finish their education or if they have a physical or mental disability which stops them from supporting themselves.
If you would like to receive child maintenance for your adult child, or you have been asked to pay adult child maintenance, you should get legal advice.