Child support assessment
You need to know
Child support formula
Every parent's circumstance is unique and 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.
The formula is based on independent research and the costs of raising children. The key components are that:
- both parents' incomes are considered equally
- a self-support amount is deducted from each parent's income before child support is worked out
- the percentage of care each parent provides is taken into account
- children from first and subsequent families are treated in a similar way
Child support payments and Family Tax Benefit (FTB) are closely linked. You may need to apply for a child support assessment in order to receive more than the base rate of FTB Part A, and the amount of child support payable may affect how much FTB you get. The more child support you receive, the less FTB you might get. Likewise, the less child support you receive, the more FTB you might get.
Parentage of children involved with child support
Before we accept a child support application, we must be satisfied 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
- the male parent was living with the mother between 20 and 44 weeks immediately before the child's birth
- the person has adopted the child
- a statutory declaration has been made by a person acknowledging they are the child's parent, or
- the person is a parent under the Family Law Act 1975, such as where the child was born as a result of artificial conception, surrogacy or to recognised same-sex couples
After we register your case, we send you a child support assessment. You do not have to work out your assessment yourself—we work it out for you. If your case details change at any time, you should let us know and we will send you an updated or new assessment. It is important you check your updated or new assessment and let us know if any details are incorrect.
Your percentage of care affects your Child Support
Child support is calculated to recognise shared parenting and the contribution each parent makes towards the costs of the children through direct care.
Income used in calculating child support payments
Each parent's income is considered in the same way and then combined to work out the costs of raising children. Each parent's share of the total income shows how much of the children's costs they should meet.
Working out child support using the basic formula
The basic formula applies to parents with 1 child support assessment and no other dependent children. This is the formula we use for most child support assessments.
Child support period
A child support period is the length of time a child support assessment applies. A child support period can last up to 15 months or can be shorter, depending on the circumstances of your case.
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.
Child support for same-sex parents
You can apply for child support if you are a parent with children from a previous same-sex relationship and we are satisfied that you and the other parent meet the legislative requirements in relation to parentage under the Family Law Act. 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 a child support case where you are listed as a non-parent carer, you can ask that your case 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 self-administered 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 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 for non-parent carers
Sometimes children are cared for by someone other than their parent, for example, a legal guardian, grandparent or other family member.
If you provide care for a child and you are not the parent, you may be able to receive child support from both of the child's parents.
You can apply for a non-parent carer child support assessment if all of the following apply:
- you care for a child 128 nights or more a year (35% or more care)
- 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 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:
- 1 parent is not a resident of Australia or a reciprocating jurisdiction (an overseas country Australia has a child support arrangement with)
- 1 parent is deceased
- we are satisfied there are special circumstances—for example, the other parent is unknown
Child support is still worked out using both parents' incomes and takes into account any care they have. Your own income is not taken into account.
To receive child support if you are a non-parent carer, you will need to apply for a child support assessment. Complete the Application for Child Support assessment—non-parent carers form or call 131 272.
A statutory declaration or other evidence may be required to verify the parents named on the child support assessment form are the child's parents.
Grandparent Advisers are available in some services centres to support grandparents with full-time caring responsibility for their grandchildren.
Parents with 2 or more child support assessments
The calculations for parents with 2 or more child support assessments are a little more involved, yet still based on the basic formula.
To work out your child support income if you pay or receive child support for 2 or more families, we deduct an amount called a multi-case allowance after we deduct the self-support amount and any relevant dependent child amount from your adjusted taxable income. We then apply the basic formula.
The multi-case allowance recognises your responsibility for supporting your children in other child support cases. We work out the multi-case cost 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 with second families—relevant dependent children
If you have 'relevant dependent children' in your care for 128 nights or more a year (35% or more care) an amount for their support may be deducted from your income when calculating your child support.
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 similarly.
The 'relevant dependent child amount' is worked out using only your income. Because parents' incomes are 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 work out your child support payments.
Where a parent has a second family that includes step-children, the responsibility of financially supporting the step-child may rest with that parent if neither of the child's biological parents can pay for the costs of their child, for example, due to illness, death or caring responsibilities.
In special circumstances, parents with child support children who also care for a step-child can apply for a change of assessment to have their child support payments reviewed.
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 and did not receive income support in the last relevant year of income (the financial year that ended before the start date of the relevant child support period).
Residence requirements for child support
We can only accept an application for a child support assessment if both parents are residents of Australia, or if 1 parent is a resident of Australia and the other parent is a resident of a reciprocating jurisdiction.
Some parents living in non-reciprocating jurisdictions may still legally be considered residents of Australia or a reciprocating jurisdiction. Parents who are unable to apply for a Child Support assessment may be able to apply for a court order for child maintenance.
Call us on 131 272 for more information about determining your residency status.
Once you have read about eligibility the next steps are:
- Apply for a child support assessment
- Provide supporting documentation
- We will assess your application and let you know the outcome
Managing your child support
We take a broad range of income types into account to work out child support payments. Income used in calculating for child support purposes includes taxable income, gross reportable fringe benefits, target foreign income, net investment losses and some tax-free pensions or benefits.
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.
Child Support can change the assessment in special circumstances to more accurately reflect 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 the Child Support Registrar.
The Child Support Guide, chapter 2.6.14 has more information on changing the assessment when you're self-employed, including information on deductions, depreciation and business structures.
If you are self-employed, our options for collecting and enforcing payment of child support are different than 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 the department 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.
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 are accurate.
Changing your child support assessment in special circumstances
If your circumstances have changed or you believe your child support assessment does not reflect your current situation, you may be able to ask us to review your assessment in special circumstances.
Child support responsibilities when you enter prison
When 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.
If you do not let us know you have gone to prison, you may build up a child support debt based on the wrong details. You might also end up paying too much child support that cannot be recovered. In most cases, we can only change your assessment from the date we are told of your change in circumstances.
Changes we need to know about when you enter prison are:
- your address—we may need to write to you, even when you are in prison
- your income—your income may change when you enter prison and this means your child support assessment will change
- in most cases, if your income drops by more than 15% we can re-assess your child support payments and you may be able to pay less
- you also need to tell us about any income and allowances you earn in prison including investments or income outside of prison, to ensure you are paying the right amount
- customers entering prison will be assessed on their income from previous years until they inform us about their changed circumstances and lodge an estimate of income
- your children's care—if you cared for your children full-time or part-time before going into prison, your assessment may need to change
If you are a paying parent who reports a low taxable income and does not receive income support, complete an Application for fixed annual rate not to be used form.
If your income is less than the minimum assessment amount, complete an Application to reduce minimum assessment to nil form.
Getting someone else to deal with us on your behalf while you are in prison
If you are entering prison, you can get someone to deal with us on your behalf. You can authorise another person or organisation to make enquiries about your child support case, represent you in dealings with us or provide information about you to us. Use the Child Support representative authority form to nominate someone or call us on 131 272 to discuss what your representative will be authorised to do on your behalf.
Telling the other parent
We will not tell the other parent if you are in prison. We must however advise them if your child support assessment is reduced or you have made a successful application to reduce your assessment to nil, but we will not provide specific information about why this has happened.
Child support responsibilities when you are being deployed
When you leave on military deployment, a number of things will change that we need to know about so we can make sure your child support assessment is accurate.
Before you go
Before you go, make sure you tell us about:
- changes to your mailing address
- your expected deployment period
- potential income changes
- your best contact details
- if the care arrangements for your child or children will change
You should also:
- lodge any outstanding tax returns—this will make sure you do not pay the wrong amount or build up a child support debt
- register a child support agreement with us—if you and the other parent can reach an agreement about child support for your child
- set up employer deductions for your payments if you have a registered case with us—it’s an easy way to manage your child support payments while you are away from home
- apply for a change of assessment if your circumstances fall within the 10 reasons for changing your assessment in special circumstances
If you do not tell us about your deployment and we do not know your current details, you might pay too much child support, fall behind in your payments, build up a debt or not receive the correct amount.
You can update your details using Child Support Online Services or call us on 131 272.
If you do not have time to talk to us before you go
If you do not have much time to talk to us before you go, you can nominate a representative to talk to us on your behalf. Complete a Child Support representative authority form, or call us first on 131 272 to discuss what your representative will be authorised to do on your behalf.
Telling the other parent
We will not tell the other parent that you have been deployed. We do not pass on your personal information unless it is required by law or necessary to make a decision that affects them.
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.
- If we made your assessment, you will need to contact us
- If you have an Australian court order, you will need to get legal advice about how it can be varied
- If you have an assessment made by an overseas authority, you will need to contact the country where the original assessment was made
- If 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. Seek legal advice if this is your situation
Child support while living outside Australia
If 1 parent lives overseas, we may still be able to collect and transfer child support payments for their children’s benefit.
Child support care percentage estimator
The care estimator allows you to estimate the care percentage to be used in assessing 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.
The Child Support Guide
The Child Support Guide is our technical resource, which outlines our approach to the administration of the Child Support Scheme.
Support services for separated families
We provide separated parents with services including support and products to help with their family situation.