What is child support?

Child support is payments made by one or both parents, to the other after separation, to assist with looking after any children of the relationship. In Australia, child support is assessed by the Child Support Registrar.

The Department of Human Service (DHS) is the department that manages child support through the Child Support Registrar. The website can be difficult to navigate however, the below guides are useful:

  • The Child Support Guide
  • Administrative forms
  • Child support estimator

What types of payments are there?

Child support is often viewed in two ways:

  • Periodic child support – how much you receive or pay each week; and
  • Non-periodic child support – payments such as private school fees, child care, health insurance, medical or dental treatment.

It is important that each party recognises the difference between these.

For example, if you pay (or receive) $200 per week by way of periodic child support, you may also be required to pay (or be entitled to receive) additional funds by way of non-periodic child support to assist you to pay a child’s school fees.

How is child support calculated?

Whilst the formula for calculating child support is a complex one, broadly speaking, child support is calculated by using the following data:

  • Number of children;
  • Age of children;
  • Income of each parent;
  • Other costs the paying parent is contributing to;
  • Time each child spends in the care of each parent.

The calculation is often generated off the income disclosed through tax returns filed with the Australian Taxation Office.

The Child Support Agency has broad powers to enforce the payment of child support, including the directing your employer (or the other parent’s employer) to pay, garnishing any sums of money to be received, including tax returns or sale proceeds from a settlement and can restrict a parents capacity to travel overseas.

Child support is a complex area of family law, where parties often require legal assistance. This includes the following occasions:

  • Negotiating a private agreement with your former spouse to support your children – known as a Child Support Agreement;
  • Assisting with matters concerning paternity disputes;
  • Assisting in explaining the administrative assessment and review procedures;
  • Assisting you with the Child Support Agency;
  • Advising you as to how child support matters may affect your property or spousal maintenance matters;
  • Advising you as to how child support can impact on parenting arrangements;
  • Applications to the court for non-periodic child support;
  • Issuing court proceedings to depart from the administrative assessment.
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