Child support assessment
You need to know
The child support assessment formula
The child support formula is flexible enough to take into account many different family circumstances. It provides a balanced way of working out child support payments.
Child support payments are assessed based on the combined incomes of the parents and the care arrangements of the child. This ensures that the costs of raising a child are shared by both parents.
For example, if a parent provides a larger percentage of care than their share of the total income, they will generally receive child support payments from the other parent. If a parent provides a smaller percentage of care than their share of the income, they will generally pay child support to the other parent.
The tables for working out the costs of children and the costs that the parents meet through care are based on research into what parents spend on children in Australia.
The costs of children table is updated annually according to the changes in the Child Support Guide’s Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) figures.
Child support payments and Family Tax Benefit (FTB) are closely linked. You may need to apply for a child support assessment in order to get more than the base rate of FTB Part A. The amount of your child support payment may affect how much FTB you receive. The more child support you get, the less FTB you may receive. Equally, the less child support you get, the more FTB you may receive.
Eligibility for a child support assessment
Before we accept an application for a child support assessment, we must be satisfied that both parents are the legal parents of the child or children involved.
We will be satisfied if:
- the parents were married when the child was born
- the parents are named on the child's birth certificate including an Australian birth certificate or a birth certificate issued by a country listed as a reciprocating jurisdiction for Australia
- the male parent was living with the mother between 20 and 44 weeks immediately before the child's birth
- adoption papers list both parents
- a statutory declaration, or other relevant instrument has been made by a person acknowledging they are the child's parent
- a relevant court has expressly found that the person is a parent of the child, or
- the person is a parent under the Family Law Act 1975; for example, the child was born as a result of artificial conception or surrogacy
After we accept your application, we will send you a child support assessment notice. You do not have to work out your assessment yourself – we will work it out for you. It is important you check your assessment and tell us if any details are wrong. If your circumstances change at any time, you need to let us know so we can provide you with an updated assessment.
Your percentage of care affects your child support payments
The child support formula recognises shared parenting and the contribution each parent makes towards the costs of the children through direct care.
Income used in calculating child support payments
The income of each parent is considered equally when we make a child support assessment. The parent’s income is used to determine which costs they should meet.
Working out child support payments using the basic formula
The basic formula applies to parents with only one child support assessment.
Child support period
A child support period is the amount of time a child support assessment covers. A child support period can last up to 15 months or can be shorter, depending on your family situation.
The start date of your child support period determines which financial year will be used for the child support assessment.
At the end of a child support period, we will start a new assessment for the next period, taking into account changes in income and the cost of living.
We can update your child support assessment throughout the child support period. If your circumstances change it is important for you to tell us.
Your child is turning 18 and is still at school
If your child is about to turn 18 and is in full time secondary education, you can ask us to continue the child support assessment to the end of the school year. You need to apply after their 17th birthday and before their 18th birthday.
If you receive Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A and choose not to apply for your child support to be extended past your child’s 18th birthday you will only receive the base rate of FTB Part A. We will remind you to apply for the extension before your child's 18th birthday. There are very limited circumstances where we can accept an application after your child’s 18th birthday.
If you want your child support payments to continue when your child is 18 years old and in secondary education phone us on 131 272 or complete the Child over 18 in full time secondary education form.
Child support for same-sex parents
You can apply for a child support assessment if you are a parent with children from a previous same sex relationship. We must be satisfied that you and the other parent meet the legislative requirements in relation to parentage under the Family Law Act 1975.
A same sex couple is generally considered to be parents of a child if:
- they have adopted the child
- the child was born as a result of an artificial conception procedure and the parents were in a de facto relationship at the time of the artificial conception procedure
- the child was born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement, and a court has made an order under a prescribed law of a state or territory declaring that the couple are the parents of the child
If you are a separated parent with a child from a previous same sex relationship and already have an assessment where you are listed as a non-parent carer, you can ask that your assessment be changed to reflect your status as the child's parent.
Fill out an application for child support assessment online.
Nicole and Samantha – a case study
Nicole and Samantha are in a de facto relationship and decide to have a child together. They agree that Nicole will be the birth mother and Nicole undertakes insemination using donor sperm. Their daughter Louisa is born.
Sometime after this, Nicole and Samantha's relationship ends and Nicole agrees to have full time care of Louisa.
Nicole applies for a child support assessment. Both mothers are recognised as parents under section 60H of the Family Law Act 1975, as the child is the result of an artificial insemination procedure. A child support assessment is made on this basis.
Child support assessments for non-parent carers
Sometimes children are cared for by someone other than their parent, such as a legal guardian, grandparent or other family member.
If you provide care for a child and you are not their parent, you may be able to receive child support from both of the child's parents.
You can submit a non-parent carer child support assessment if all of the following circumstances apply:
- you have a shared care arrangement where you care for a child 128 nights or more a year
- you are not in a domestic relationship with either of the child's parents
- you do not have care jointly with a parent of the child
- you are seeking payment from a person who is a parent of the child and resident in Australia or a reciprocating jurisdiction on the day you apply
- the child's parents have consented to you caring for the child, unless it would be considered unreasonable for the parents to care for the child
If you apply for a child support assessment, you must apply to receive child support from both parents except where:
- one parent is not a resident of Australia or a reciprocating jurisdiction. This is an overseas country with which Australia has a child support arrangement
- one parent is deceased
- we are satisfied there are special circumstances such as where the other parent is unknown
Child support payments are still worked out using both parents' incomes and take into account any care they have. As a non-parent carer your income is not taken into account.
To receive a child support payment as a non-parent carer, you will need to apply for a child support assessment. We will need to be satisfied that the persons named in the application, are the parents of the child. Apply for a child support assessment online.
Parents with 2 or more child support assessments
The calculations for parents with 2 or more child support assessments are a little more involved.
To work out your child support income if you pay or receive child support for 2 or more families from previous relationships, we apply the formula to your adjusted taxable income after we deduct:
- a multi-case allowance for supporting your children in other child support cases
- the self support amount, and
- any relevant dependent child amount
We work out the multi-case allowance for each child according to their age and how much it would cost if all the children were living with you.
Where a paying parent has multiple cases, the formula uses a multi-case cap to determine the maximum amount of child support payable. The multi-case cap ensures you do not pay more in child support than it would cost if you had all your children that need child support payments living with you.
Child support assessments with second families
If you have relevant dependent children in your care for 128 nights or more in a year, or in a shared care arrangement, an amount for their support may be deducted from your income when calculating your child support. A relevant dependent child cannot be assessed as a child support child in other child support cases.
A relevant dependent child can be:
- your biological child
- your adopted child
- your child under the Family Law Act 1975
- born as the result of an artificial conception procedure
- born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement
The relevant dependent child amount deducted from your income is worked out for your second or subsequent family using the same cost of children table used for your child support children. This means that all your children are treated using the same formulas.
The relevant dependent child amount is worked out using only your income. Because each parent’s income is treated equally under the formula, either parent can have children from a new family recognised in this way. Your new partner's income is not taken into account when we complete the child support assessment.
Where a parent has a second family that includes stepchildren, the responsibility of financially supporting the stepchild may rest with that parent if neither of the child's biological parents can pay for the costs of their child, because of, for example, illness, death or caring responsibilities.
In special circumstances, parents who make child support payments who also care for a stepchild can apply for a change of assessment to have their child support payments reviewed. You may be able to ask us to review your assessment in special circumstances.
Read more about the reasons for a change of assessment, including the duty to maintain any other child or person
Minimum and fixed child support assessments
A minimum amount is payable under each child support assessment. A fixed assessment applies to a paying parent who reports a low taxable income.
Residency requirements for child support assessment
We can complete a child support assessment if:
- both parents are residents of Australia
- one parent is a resident of Australia and the other parent is a resident of a reciprocating jurisdiction
- the paying parent is resident of Australia and the child is either present in Australia, ordinarily resident in Australia or an Australian citizen
Parents who are unable to apply for a child support assessment may be able to apply for a court order for child maintenance. This can be completed through your state or territory court dealing with family matters.
Parents who are eligible to receive a child support payment and reside in a reciprocating jurisdiction can apply for a child support assessment by lodging their application with the central child support authority in their country of residence. That country must then send the application onto us.
Parenting plans are written plans that can include an agreement about the amount of time your children will be in each parent’s care.
Child support responsibilities when you are being deployed
When you leave Australia on military deployment, a number of things will change that we need to know about. This is so we can make sure your child support assessment is accurate.
Once you have read about eligibility the next steps are:
- Apply for a child support assessment
- We will assess your application and let you know the outcome
Managing your child support
Deciding what collection option is right for you
If you are unsure whether Private Collect or Child Support Collect is the best choice, you can compare your child support collection options.
If you receive Family Tax Benefit payments, it is important to consider the effect each collection option may have on how your benefit is calculated.
If your choice does not work out, you can call us to discuss other payment options. The person receiving child support must agree or request a change in collection methods.
Collection of child support payments privately (Private Collect)
You and the other parent decide the most convenient way for payments to be made between yourselves.
Collection of child support payments by us (Child Support Collect)
We collect and transfer child support payments for you.
Self employed parents
If you are self employed, some of our options for collecting and enforcing child support payments differ to those available if you are a salary or wage earner.
If we are unable to negotiate a suitable payment arrangement with you, we can issue a garnishee notice to a third party to deduct child support payments from your income. For example, if you are a sub-contractor, the person you are working for may be asked to forward funds to us that they otherwise would have paid to you.
These notices can be for a lump sum amount, a periodic amount, or for an amount representing cents in a dollar.
There are a number of payment options available.
We take a broad range of income types into account to work out child support payments. Income used in calculating child support payments includes taxable income, gross reportable fringe benefits, target foreign income, net investment losses and some tax free pensions or benefits. For customers who are, or were, residents overseas we will take into account your income that you received overseas. This is different to target foreign income.
If you are self employed you may be able to legitimately reduce your taxable income by claiming deductions for certain expenses.
These allowable tax deductions may result in more financial resources being personally available to you than your taxable income would otherwise indicate. The child support assessment may be unfair or unjust if it does not include those financial resources.
We are able to update a child support assessment under special circumstances. These special circumstances allow us to make an accurate assessment of each parent’s income and other financial resources available to them. Either parent can apply to change the assessment or a change can also be initiated by us.
Change of circumstances that affect your child support
It is important you tell us if your circumstances change as soon as possible to make sure your details and child support assessment are accurate.
Changing your child support assessment in special circumstances
There are some situations where your child support assessment can be changed in special circumstances. We call this the change of assessment process.
Child support responsibilities if you enter prison
If you enter prison, a number of things will change that we need to know about so we can make sure your child support assessment is accurate.
Varying your child support assessment
If your circumstances have changed or you believe your child support assessment does not reflect your current situation, you may be able to apply to have your assessment varied.
This will depend on whether you have a child support assessment or a court order, and whether the court order or assessment was made in Australia or overseas.
- we made your assessment, you will need to contact us
- you have an Australian Court order, you will need to get legal advice about how it can be varied
- you have an assessment made by an overseas authority, you will need to contact the country where the original assessment was made
- you have an overseas court order, you may be able to have this varied in Australia or in the country where the order was made – contact us or seek legal advice if this is your situation
Child support while living outside Australia
In some cases we can help separated parents with child support arrangements for their children when one parent lives in another country.
Child support care percentage estimator
This tool allows you to estimate the care percentage to be used in assessing your child support payments.
Simply enter a start date and select the total nights of care you have for your children through the year. The care estimator will calculate and display the total nights of care, care percentage and care level.
Support information in other languages
We provide a number of factsheets in other languages, including:
- Paying child support when the other parent is overseas (amount established overseas)
- Paying child support when the other parent is overseas (amount established in Australia)
- Paying child support when you live overseas
- Receiving child support when you live overseas
- Receiving child support when the other parent lives overseas
- Paying child support to the other parent in New Zealand
- Receiving child support when the other parent lives in New Zealand
Available in the information in your language section.
Select the options that describe your circumstances then explore a suggested list of possible Centrelink and Medicare payments and services online.
Select your state and topics of interest to find links to government and community organisation support.