Australian law considers that the parents of children are financially responsible for them whether the parents were married or in a relationship when the child was born, and regardless of their level of involvement in their child’s life. Child support payments are regular financial contributions that a parent makes towards the welfare and maintenance of their child.
Child support is managed and assessed through Services Australia (a government agency). Payments are based on a formula that takes into consideration factors including parents’ income and the costs of supporting a child. Services Australia will collect and distribute the child support payments.
In some cases, parents may enter into their own child support agreements, which are different to the assessment of child support payments, and generally provide more flexibility.
Applying for a child support assessment
You can apply for child support through Services Australia. The amount of child support varies according to your specific circumstances. Generally, child support is payable for all children until they are 18 years old. Non-parent carers who care for a child may also be eligible to apply for child support from one or both child’s parents.
Services Australia must be convinced that the applicant and paying parent are in fact the parents of the child. Generally, parentage will be accepted by providing a copy of the child’s birth certificate. Challenges to parentage may be made through a court and/or DNA testing. Such issues can be complex and emotionally charged – if disputes arise it is recommended that legal advice be obtained as soon as possible.
How is child support calculated?
The amount of child support payable is calculated using a formula that considers various factors such as:
- the combined income of the parents
- the respective income of each parent
- the length of time the child spends with each parent
- the costs of raising children relative to specific age ranges and the capacity for the parents to meet those costs
- 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
Payments can vary over time because of changes in the financial or personal circumstances of the parents or child.
Objecting to a child support assessment decision
Sometimes a child support assessment may not fully consider the special needs of a child, or the circumstances of a parent or carer. Additionally, parents who pay child support may have had a change in circumstances since the assessment was made, which now makes it difficult to meet these payments.
Either parent may apply for a reassessment of child support and both will be notified in writing of the decision reached. If either party is still unhappy with the decision, an objection may be lodged, after which an internal review will take place.
Support for adult children – child maintenance
What if one parent lives outside Australia?
Australia has arrangements with several countries known as ‘reciprocating jurisdictions’, and Services Australia may be able to assist with the management of child support and spousal payments when one parent lives outside Australia. This can be a complex process and the efficiency of these arrangements depends on whether the country is a ‘reciprocating jurisdiction’ and that country’s laws and processes.
You may also be able to register a ‘maintenance liability’ (a court order, agreement, or assessment) made outside Australia with Services Australia which allows the department to collect and transfer child support or spousal support payments.
How can we help with your child support application?
Children deserve the best their parents can give them. But in some family separations, children are sometimes the forgotten victims and disgruntled ex-partners may try to avoid or minimise their support obligations. We have an excellent reputation for identifying concealed assets and income to ensure a fair child support entitlement is paid for your children.