Payments for children
After separation a parent 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 child support is called the payer parent. The carer who recieves child support is called the payee parent/carer.
Paying child support is designed to help meet the cost of caring for and raising children.
There are four ways a decision can be made about how much child support should be paid by a parent:
- an informal arrangement about child support payments (this is known as 'self-management')
- a formal agreement about child support payments (this is called a 'child support agreement')
- parents or a carer of the child can apply to Services Australia for a child support assessment, or
- parents or a carer of the child can apply to the Family Court to make a decision in some limited situations.
How is the amount of child support calculated?
Services Australia uses a formula to work out how much child support should be paid. The formula takes into account:
- each parent's income, basic living expenses and other financial obligations
- how much time each parent has the children in their care, and
- the number of children, their ages and their needs.
It is important that each of these factors is considered (regardless of whether the decision about how much child support will be paid is made informally or formally) to ensure the appropriate level of financial support is provided for children.
You can estimate how much child support should be paid using Services Australia 'Calculate'. In cases where Services Australia has determined how much child support should be paid, you can ask Services Australia to review the amount of child support at any time if your circumstances change. For more information about what to do if your circumstances change see the Services Australia webpage Change of circumstances.
How can child support payments be collected?
If you have an informal child support arrangement, child support payments can be transferred privately, such as by direct debit.
If you have a formal child support agreement or Services Australia has made a child support assessment, Services Australia can help collect child support payments from a parent.
For more information about collection of child support payments see the Services Australia webpage Compare your child support collection options.
What do I need to know about informal child support arrangements?
You and the other parent or carer may decide to have an informal arrangement where you 'self-manage' how much child support will be paid and how and when payments will be made. The agreement does not have to be registered with Services Australia and you will not have a child support assessment.
It is important to know that if you are the payee parent/carer who is receiving child support payments and you decide to 'self-manage' child support arranagements you are only able to get the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A (if you are recieving a benefit). For more information about how child support arrangements can affect your Family Tax Benefit Part A see the Services Australia webpage Child Support and your Family Tax Benefit Part A. This situation is complex and it is a good idea to obtain legal advice.
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.
Does child support still have to be paid if either parent or the carer lives overseas?
If either parent of a child or the child's carer lives overseas child support may still need to be paid.
Services Australia may be able to help you set up child support when you or the other parent lives overseas. For more information visit the Services Australia webpage Child support when parents and children live outside Australia.
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 eduation 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. Legal Aid WA has a specialist child support advisor or you can contact a lawyer who specialises in child maintenance. You can find more information about other places you can get help here.
When might I need to ask the Family Court to decide about child support?
Services Australia deals with most child support matters. However, you may need to apply to the Family Court about the following:
- varying or setting aside formal child support agreements
- child support arrears
- departure from an assessment
- adult child maintenance payments (when a child is over 18 years of age), or
- if a parent or carer is living overseas (in some cases).
All of these situations are complex, it is recommended you get legal advice.
Reviewed: 10 March 2021