Child support is a payment made by a parent to the other parent to help with the costs of caring for the child. It can also be paid by one or both parents to another person who is looking after their children.
Parents can reach agreement in relation to child support payments or a parent can make application to the Department of Human Services for an administrative assessment. Either parent can make an application for child support.
Types of child support payments
There are a number of types of child support payments including:
- periodic payments (weekly/fortnightly or monthly payments); or
- lump sum payments.
Payments can be made directly to the other parent (private collection) or the Department of Human Services can collect the child support monies and provide them to the other parent.
In addition, if both parents agree, payments to third parties can also be considered a child support payment. These payments can be for expenses such as health insurance, medical expenses, extra-curricular activity expenses, child care costs or school fees.
If you cannot agree whether payments to third parties are child support, one parent can make an application for a child support credit for non-agency payments to the Department of Human Services. Examples of non-agency payments include child care costs, school fees, essential medical and dental items and school uniform and book fees.
How is it calculated?
Child support payments are calculated pursuant to a formula which follows these steps:
- work out each parent’s child support income (their adjusted taxable income minus a self-support amount and any relevant dependant allowance);
- work out the parents’ combined income (add together the amounts at step one);
- work out the each parent’s income percentage (this is done by dividing each parent’s income by the combined total);
- work out each parent’s percentage of care of the child;
- work out each parent’s cost percentage using the care and costs table;
- the cost percentage from the income percentage of each parent;
- work out the costs of children using the costs of children table;
- work out the child support amount by multiplying the positive child support percentage by the costs of the child.
There is an online calculator on the Department of Human Services website that parents can access to estimate their child support amount.
This formula applies to parents with one child support assessment. If more than one child support assessment is in place the formula is more complicated. Again the calculator can assist.
Can you oppose a child support assessment?
If you do not agree with a child support decision you may be able to lodge an objection. An objection can be lodged if you think the Department of Human Services has:
- used incorrect or old information when making the decision;
- not considered all of the facts/information;
- missed important details;
- not applied the law correctly.
An objection must be lodged in writing within 28 days of the day you received notice of the decision. Written correspondence must be provided to the Child Support Registrar asking them to reconsider their original decision. This correspondence must clearly set out the grounds of your objection to the decision.
Can you ask for a change of assessment to increase/decrease child support?
In certain circumstances an application may be made for a change of assessment. These circumstances are:
- the costs of maintaining the child are significantly affected by high costs of enabling a parent to spend time with, or communicate with the child;
- the costs of maintaining the child are affected by high costs associated with the child’s special needs;
- the costs of maintaining the child are significantly affected by high costs of caring for, educating or training the child in the way both parents intended;
- the child support assessment is unfair because of the parent’s income, earning capacity or financial resources;
- the child support assessment is unfair because the payer has paid or transferred money, goods or property to the child, the payee or a third party for the benefit of the child;
- the costs of maintaining the child are significantly affected by the high child care costs for the child (and the child is under 12);
- the parent’s necessary expenses significantly affect their capacity to support the child;
- the child support assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity, property or financial resources of one or both parents;
- the parent’s capacity to support the child is significantly affected by:
- their duty to maintain another child or person;
- their necessary expenses in supporting another child or person they have a duty to maintain;
- their high costs of enabling them to spend time with or communicate with, another child or person they have a duty to maintain;
- the parent’s responsibility to maintain a resident child significantly reduces their capacity to support the child.
If you think one of the above circumstances applies to you, contact us and make an appointment to discuss with one of our experienced family lawyers.
When does it end?
Child support is generally paid until the child turns 18. If the child has not yet finished Grade 12 when they turn 18, an application can be made to extend the payments until they complete Grade 12. This application must be made before the child’s 18 birthday.
In some circumstances child support can end before a child turns 18. These circumstances include;
- if the child marries or enters into a de facto relationship;
- it the child becomes self sufficient;
- if the child is adopted;
- if the child dies.
In some circumstances child support payments also can be paid for a child over 18. Please contact us for more information.