Changing your child support assessment in special circumstances

Your child support assessment can be changed in special circumstances. We call this the change of assessment process.

To apply for a change of assessment, you’ll need to complete the Application to Change your Assessment – Special Circumstances form.

The other parent has the right to respond to your application or make their own application. This is called a cross application. The other parent can do this by completing the Response to application to change your assessment – special circumstances form.

All parties to a child support assessment will be involved in the change of assessment process. References to the ‘other parent’ on this page can also include a non-parent carer.

Change of assessment process

The process involves exchanging information with the other parent. We’ll call you and the other parent to talk about the application and the response.

Copies of the application, response, cross-application and accompanying documents will be given to the other parent. This includes any documents you obtained from a court proceeding in the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court.

We won’t give the other parent your personal information contained in the privacy section of your application or response. However, we’ll send any accompanying or supporting documents to the other parent. Don’t include private or personal information in these documents, such as your phone number or address.

We don’t accept or consider evidence that includes any verbal or written statements from a child. A child is any person under 18. Statements include voice recordings, text messages, and social media posts.

We won’t accept a Change of Assessment application that includes obscene or offensive material.

We don’t accept or consider evidence that has been unlawfully obtained.

You might have documents that were obtained or exchanged during a mediation process. If you signed a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement, you may wish to seek legal advice before providing these documents. If you do provide them, we’ll consider them during the change of assessment process and provide a copy of the documents to the other parent.

Reasons to change your child support assessment

You must satisfy at least one of the following reasons for us to consider changing your child support assessment. Just being unhappy with your current assessment isn’t a reason to apply.

Reason 1

The costs of raising the child are significantly affected by the high costs of spending time or communicating with the child.

The costs must be more than 5% of your adjusted taxable income as shown on your assessment notice.

The costs can include:

  • transport
  • accommodation, and
  • phone calls

The costs can’t include:

  • food
  • clothing, or
  • entertainment

If you care for your child at least 52 nights or 14% of the year, travel is the only cost we can take into account. This is because the other costs are taken into account when we work out your child support assessment.

You can show us:

  • court orders or agreed parenting plans
  • receipts for expenses like airfares, accommodation or petrol, or
  • an estimate of future costs

Reason 2

The costs of raising the child are significantly affected because of their special needs.

You can only claim out of pocket costs after deducting rebates, refunds or allowances. You can’t claim day to day expenses like food, clothing or standard medical care.

You can show us:

  • medical evidence about the child's condition, treatment and cost
  • receipts showing out of pocket expenses, or
  • an estimate of future costs

Reason 3

The costs of raising the child are significantly affected because the child is being cared for, educated or trained in the way both parents intended. An example is attending a private school.

You can show us:

  • education application and enrolment documents signed by both parents
  • receipts for costs, like fees or tuition, or
  • other evidence showing both parents' intentions, like a parenting plan or court order

Reason 4

The child support assessment is unfair because of the child's income, earning capacity, property or financial resources.

The child must earn enough to reduce the need for parental support. This doesn’t include any income support payments they may be receiving.

You need to show us information about the child's employment or income, if you know it.

Reason 5

The child support assessment is unfair because you’ve paid or transferred money, goods or property to your child, the receiving parent or a third party, for the child's benefit.

This usually relates to a property transfer or a large lump sum payment directly to the other parent or another person for child support. For example, as part of a property settlement.

You can show us:

  • court orders or agreements showing the transfer of money, goods or property for the child’s benefit, or
  • receipts showing payments made to third parties for the child’s benefit

Reason 6

The costs of raising the child are significantly affected by the parent or non parent carer's child care costs, and the child is under 12 years of age.

The costs must be more than 5% of your adjusted taxable income if you’re a parent, or at least 25% of the costs of the child if you’re a non parent carer. These amounts are shown on your assessment notice. You can only claim actual costs after deducting rebates, refunds or other assistance.

You can show us:

  • receipts showing childcare payments
  • statements showing rebates, benefits and government assistance, or
  • enrolment forms

Reason 7

Your necessary expenses significantly reduce your capacity to support the child.

You must tell us why the expenses are necessary and what makes them special or out of the ordinary. For example, you might have high medical costs.

You can show us:

  • documents confirming your income, like payslips, or
  • documents or receipts detailing your necessary out of pocket expenses

Reason 8

The child support assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity, property or financial resources of one or both parents.

You can apply because your or the other parent’s:

  • financial resources, income and property aren’t being reflected in the assessment, or
  • earning capacity is greater than what’s reflected in the assessment

You may apply for both grounds if you think there are circumstances that satisfy both.

You can show us:

  • payslips
  • a profit and loss statement and balance sheet for your business if you’re self-employed
  • documents explaining your change in income, like medical certificates or financial statements, or
  • any information which may indicate that the parent is not exercising their true earning capacity

If your income has dropped by more than 15%, you may be able to lodge an income estimate instead of applying for a change of assessment.

We can select cases to review and start a change of assessment under reason 8 without an application from either parent. If we’ve initiated or are investigating a possible change to your assessment, we may ask you to complete 1 or more of these forms:

Reason 9

Your capacity to support the child is significantly reduced because of:

  • your duty to maintain another person or child
  • the special needs of that person or child, or
  • the costs of spending time with or communicating with that person or child. 

You may be paying costs for another child or spousal maintenance, or supporting a partner living with you who can’t support themselves.

If the child you’re supporting is already included in your child support assessment as a relevant dependent, we’ve already considered your duty to support the child. However, you can apply under this reason if the child has special needs.

In some instances, we’ll accept that a parent has a duty to maintain his or her adult child. This is where we’re satisfied that a court would make a child maintenance order requiring that parent to support that child. We can make this decision if a court hasn’t made this kind of order.

You can show us:

  • court orders
  • proof of payments for someone you have a legal duty to support, or
  • information on why the person can't support themselves

Reason 10

Your responsibility to support a resident child significantly reduces your capacity to support another child.

We check a number of things to see if you’re responsible for supporting the child in this situation:

  • the child normally lives with you but is not legally your child
  • the child is under 18
  • the child is not a member of a couple
  • you are, or were, a member of a couple with a legal parent of the child for 2 continuous years, and
  • one or more of the following applies for each legal parent:
    • they’re deceased
    • they can’t support the child due to ill-health
    • they can’t support the child because of caring responsibilities, or
  • the child needs financial assistance

You can show us:

  • evidence showing the legal parents' inability to financially support the child, or
  • information about the child's need for financial assistance

Notice of decision

We’ll send you a letter to let you know the outcome, and explain our decision. This is called the notice of decision.

If you have questions about the notice of decision or think the information may be wrong, contact us. This gives us a chance to discuss the decision and your review options with you.

Contrary decision

In some cases, we may make a decision that’s the opposite of the change you requested. For example, you might ask for an assessment to be decreased but we find the circumstances mean there should be an increase. This is called a contrary decision.

Applying for a change of assessment

To apply for a change of assessment, complete the Application to change your assessment - special circumstances form.

Page last updated: 29 December 2016

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