Child Support

Financial support for children in Australia is governed by the provisions of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 and the Child Support  (Registration Collection) Act 1988.

The effect of the Registration and Collection Act was to create the Child Support Agency. The Child Support Agency assesses and collects child support for dependent children.

Children under the age of 18, whose parents have separated, can be the subject of an assessment made by the Child Support Agency. The agency will make the assessment upon the application of either parent. This administrative assessment is calculated by reference to an appropriate formula which will consider the level of care given by each parent and their respective incomes.

The formula is a one size fits all method of calculation but once an assessment is made either party can apply for a departure from the formula assessment in special circumstances so that the level of support can be increased or decreased.

Child Support Special Circumstances

The departure process is set out in section 117 of the Assessment Act . There are ten “special circumstances” upon which the Child Support Agency can depart from the formula assessment, those being:

  1. It costs you more than 5% of your child support income amount to spend time with the children.
  2. It costs you extra to cover the children’s special needs.
  3. It costs you extra to care for, educate or train the children in a way that you and the other parent intended.
  4. The child support assessment does not consider the income earning capacity, property or financial resources of the children.
  5. The children, the payee or someone else has received or will receive money, goods or property from the payer for the benefit of the children.
  6. You are the payee you have the sole care of the children and it costs you more than 5% of your child support income amount for childcare.
  7. You have necessary expenses in supporting yourself that affect your ability to support the children.
  8. The child support assessment does not consider the income earning capacity, property or financial resources of one or both parents.
  9. You have a legal duty to maintain another person.
  10. You have earned additional income for the benefit of resident children.

Legal Assessment and collection are determined and effected administratively by the Child Support Agency and the various departure and appeal processes are dealt with in a similar way. The administrative process ensures that costs are kept to a minimum with only the appeal of last resort, being an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal being the only judicial process available to parents. Otherwise parties deal with representatives of the Child Support Agency

When Do Child Support Payments End

Child support is usually payable until a child attains 18 years of age. Child support can be a significant financial impost for a paying parent, or an important source of funds required to provide financial support for children particularly in situations where it will be payable for children over many years. It is important that parties obtain legal advice about the level of support which should be payable because in many situations the assessment, which is based on the previous year’s income tax returns for both parties, can produce an erroneous assessment because it fails to take into account other relevant factors.

Contact our Family Law team for more information.


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