FAQs: What is child support and how is it determined?

When a relationship breaks down and there are children involved, it is required by law that parents continue to support their children financially. These payments are referred to as child support or child maintenance and are used to help with the cost of raising a child.

What is child support?
What is child support?

Child support is the payment of money from one parent or carer to another which can be determined by the parties themselves or by the Department of Human Services for the benefit of caring for a child/children.

Child support is still required even if the two parents have never lived together.

How do I determine if I am eligible for child support?
How do I determine if I am eligible for child support?

You are eligible for child support if you are a separated parent, you meet the Australian residency rules and are a legal parent or non-parent carer of an eligible child.

Who determines child support in Perth?
Who determines child support in Perth?

Children with separated parents are covered by the Child Support Scheme which is administered by the Department of Human Services.

How is child support assessed?
How is child support assessed?

The Child Support Scheme uses a formula, based on:

  • the income of both parents;
  • the costs of raising children;
  • the number of children in the family; and
  • the amount of time each parent spends with the children to whom they are required to financially support.

An allowance is also made for the needs of each party for supporting themselves.

How do I apply for child support?
How do I apply for child support?

Either parent can apply for child support. The first step to determine if you are eligible to receive payments is to complete an assessment through the Department of Human Services

You can not apply to the Family Court for this.

Will child support affect any Centrelink payment or Family Tax benefits/pension I am receiving?
Will child support affect any Centrelink payment or Family Tax benefits/pension I am receiving?

If you are receiving child support payments, an adjustment to any other government benefits you may be receiving may be required.  You should notify Centrelink of any changes to your child support arrangements.

Does the Family Court determine child support in Perth?
Does the Family Court determine child support in Perth?

In some limited circumstances, you can apply to the Family Court for a departure from child support assessment by The Department of Human Services.

Can I make my own arrangements privately with my partner?
Can I make my own arrangements privately with my partner?

Yes. Parents can make their own arrangements by agreement. This can be an informal verbal agreement or through a written agreement. A written agreement often takes the form of a Binding Child Support Agreement or a Limited Child Support Agreement.

What is a Binding Child Support Agreement or a Limited Child Support Agreement?
What is a Binding Child Support Agreement or a Limited Child Support Agreement?

Parents may enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement or a Limited Child Support Agreement which departs from an assessment made by the Department of Human Services.

The terms of a Binding and Limited Child Support Agreement, if properly prepared and signed, can be enforced if one parent does not comply with them.

You are required to get legal advice before entering into a child support agreement.

What happens if I want to change my child support arrangements?
What happens if I want to change my child support arrangements?

Changing child support decisions can be complex. You should consult one of our experienced lawyers for assistance and specific advice.

How do I dispute a child support arrangement?
How do I dispute a child support arrangement?

There are a number of steps that can be taken to dispute child support arrangements.

If a parent believes the current child support payments are unfair, he or she can fill out an objection with the Department of Human Services.

If the Department of Human Services makes a decision which again is not favourable to the (objecting) parent, further steps can be taken to have that decision reviewed.

Under limited circumstances, you can take an objection to the Family Court.

What if I don’t pay child support?
What if I don’t pay child support?

If you are assessed to pay child support and refuse to do so, the Department of Human Services has significant powers to obtain the money. They can access your bank accounts, stop your tax refunds being paid to you, garnish your wages and obtain orders preventing you from leaving the country.

Can I collect child support if we live in different countries?
Can I collect child support if we live in different countries?

Child support systems vary between countries. There are reciprocal agreements between certain countries and Australia. This means it can be easier to register foreign agreements here or to register an Australian child support assessment or agreement in a foreign jurisdiction for collection of child support payments.

You can also obtain an Australian court order requiring a parent to pay child support. However, collection options can be limited if a paying parent lives in a non-reciprocating jurisdiction.