Child support

One of the most important obligations parents have is to support their children. According to the law, it takes priority over almost every other commitment. See here.

The main purpose of the Child Support Scheme is to ensure that children receive a proper level of financial support from their parents. Other objects are here.

The amount of child support that parents need to pay is based upon their respective incomes, the age of the children, the amount of time that the children are spending with each parent, and sometimes other factors such as responsibility for another child. The current formula was introduced by legislation in 2008 following an extensive review by an expert panel. You can read a detailed explanation of the reforms, and why they were necessary, here.

Child support doesn’t just help pay for the children’s food and clothing. It is a contribution to the costs of the household in which the children are living including such expenses as the electricity bill and the many other costs involved in providing a home for the children. Some people resent the amount of child support they have to pay, but it is worth remembering that taxpayers are often paying a great deal for the support of the children through Family Tax Benefit and welfare benefits like Parenting Payment. The child support formula has been worked out to take account of these benefits and to be as fair as possible to both parents.

The amount of child support a parent must pay is reassessed from time to time (usually at least every 12-15 months) to take account of changes in the parents’ incomes and circumstances. If you are the parent liable to pay child support, you can get an estimate of how much child support you will need to pay here, assuming you know your ex-partner’s taxable income. If you are receiving child support, then how much you receive will depend on how much Family Tax Benefit you are receiving. Every dollar of child support goes to the parent who is entitled to it, but if you are receiving a substantial amount of child support from the other parent, then you may receive a little less Family Tax Benefit. The government’s website has a great deal of information about the child support system and how to apply for child support. You can access it here.

If you do not think the amount of child support you are paying or receiving is fair, you can ask for a change of assessment on one or more of ten different grounds. The reasons are here. Some of the most common grounds of complaint are:

  • The high costs of education (for example a private school).
  • One parent has more income than they are declaring to the Tax Office.
  • One parent is not working, or is not earning as much as he or she could do, without good reason.

The process is explained here.

Some parents argue constantly about child support. It can create a lot of bitterness and resentment. Consider carefully how much you want this issue to be a source of conflict between you. One option is to negotiate your own agreement on child support and such issues as school fees, the costs of private health insurance, and the cost of special activities for  the children. You will need legal advice to negotiate a binding child support agreement. You can make an agreement for a limited duration without getting legal advice in some circumstances, but legal advice is highly desirable.