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Child Support – What you need to know

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Separation can be a traumatic time for both parents. Often one parent continues to work, while the other has full-time care of the parties’ dependent children. This can result in the working parent increasing their income over time, while the other falls financially behind, only managing part-time work to coincide with school hours and holidays. The other side to this is the time the working parent misses with their children.

On both sides, emotionally and financially, it can be a difficult road.

A common question asked to a lawyer during parenting proceedings is … ‘Do I need to pay child support, and if so, how much?”

Firstly, what is Child Support?

In basic terms it’s an ongoing, periodic payment (ie. weekly) made by one parent to the other for the financial care and support of a child (or parent, caregiver guardian or state) following the end of a marriage or other relationship. It is irrespective of sex, so a mother can be required to pay support to a father, just as a father can be required to pay a mother.

How is it regulated?

In Australia it is governed under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. The Department of Human Services Child Support program ( provides online information to help parents manage their financial child support responsibilities. It was formerly known as the ‘Child Support Agency’ and the phrase is still used by some people today out of habit. The agency no longer exists, instead becoming one of the Master Programs of the Australian Government Department of Human Services.

How do I apply for child support?

A parent or carer of a child can apply to the Department of Human Services (child support) for an assessment of how much support should be paid. An application can be made by calling 131 272 or online on the above website.

Do I have to pay and if so, how much?

It is an important principle of Australian Law that all parents have a legal duty to financially support their children (at least until they are 18). However, it is not compulsory to apply to Child Support for an assessment. Families that do not receive Family Tax Benefit (FTB) A from Centrelink are free to work out between themselves how much child support should be paid by one parent to the other. If a parent or carer applies for more than the minimum FTB A, they will be required to take reasonable action to obtain child support from the other parent. (Note exemptions can be granted).

You can use an online estimator to calculate an estimate of your payments, or you may have Child Support do this for you. The amount to be paid depends on the taxable income of both parents as well as the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Child support assesses the amount payable using a mathematical formula set out in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

How do I pay my child support?

There are various ways to pay child support.

Self-management – means you and your partner manage the payments yourselves. You decide how much to pay, when and how to make the payments.

Private collection – this is where a child support assessment, agreement or court order sets the amount. You and the other parent work out how and when to pay. The agency can collect overdue payments for you for up to 3 months (9 months in exceptional circumstances).

Child Support Assessments – if you choose not to self-manage, you can apply for a child support assessment. You must meet certain criteria first. The process involves completing an Application for a Child Support Assessment. Your financial information will be fed through an assessment calculator and you will be advised as to the amount you must pay. The agency can collect the money on your behalf meaning you don’t have to deal directly with your former partner.

What if my income changes, or I spent more time with the children?

You must contact the child support agency and request an updated assessment.

How long do I have to pay child support?

A child support assessment will continue until there is a change of circumstances that causes it to end called ‘a terminating event’. Some of these include if the child turns 18 (unless still in secondary education and an extension may be granted), marries, dies or if the parties enter into a private Binding Child Support Agreement.

Sharon Payne Family Lawyers specialise in all areas of family law, including de facto relationships, same-sex relationships, inheritances, property, parenting and divorce. Should you have any enquires, or would like further advice, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team on Ph:8626 2670 who will be more than happy to assist.

Publication by Kim Pennings Dip Law LPAB Lawyer and content writer for

Call (02) 8626 2670 to arrange your initial consultation