A parents’ guide to child support in Australia

Whether you’re paying or receiving, child support payments are a major concern for people going through a separation or divorce with a child. In Australia, it’s expected that both parents have an obligation to financially support their children after a separation or divorce.

We’ve written this post as an easy guide to child support. Furthermore, we answer some common FAQs about child support payments we receive as law professionals. Keep reading our straightforward child support guide to further your understanding.


How to handle child support and going through a separation and divorce with a child

Child support is a complex area of law, and each situation is unique. Here are some of the key details at a glance:

  • Services Australia handles applications for child support
  • Child support payments are calculated with a complex formula, and each case is unique
  • You can make a Child Support Agreement with your former partner without a formal application

At Australian family lawyers, we can help you navigate child support and other children’s matters when you’re going through a divorce. 

Understanding child support in Australia

The purpose of child support in Australia is to ensure that the well-being of children is properly maintained, and that both parents are meeting obligations to financially support their children after a divorce.

As such, it’s usually in everyone’s best interest to come to an amicable agreement with your former partner about child support payments. Creating a Child Support Agreement without the involvement of Services Australia is often less stressful, but this is not always possible if parents are in dispute.

If you can’t agree on the amount of child support with your former partner, then you’ll need to have a child support assessment through Services Australia.

See the Services Australia website for more information about getting a child support assessment or talk to the team at Australian Family Lawyers for advice.

How is child support calculated in Australia?

Parent and child support payments holding hands

Service Australia uses a very complex formula to calculate child support payments. Every situation is unique, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. If you want to estimate what your child support payments may be prior to (or instead of) making a child support assessment, Service Australia has an online calculator that can help you estimate the child support payable.

Some of the factors that Service Australia will consider when calculating child support payments for your case include:

  • The number of children you have
  • The age of each child
  • Your income and your former partner’s income
  • Each parent’s percentage of the care
  • Each parent’s percentage of the cost

Once Services Australia has assessed all the financial information and the care arrangements, they’ll calculate which parent needs to pay child support and how much they need to pay. For more information about how this calculation is done, refer to the child support formula on the Services Australia website.


Other common questions about child support payments

1. What percentage of your income do you have to pay in child support?

This depends on the circumstances of your care arrangements and your income, as well as several other factors. To find out the answer specific to your circumstances, you’ll need to have a child support assessment through Services Australia or talk to a lawyer for advice.

2. What is the maximum child support in Australia?

You can calculate the maximum child support amount using the combined income of both parents, up to 2.5 times the annual equivalent of the Male Total Average Weekly Earnings, as well as the Costs of Children Table. Refer to the Australian Government Child Support Guide, for a detailed overview – or contact Australian Family Lawyers, today.

3. At what age do you stop paying child support in Australia?

Child support payments typically end when a child turns 18. If your child is still in high school, you can apply to extend the child support payments until the end of the school year.

4. Can I formalise a private agreement with the other parent?

Yes. You can reach a private agreement with the other parent without the need to make an application for assessment to Services Australia. You can do this informally, between parents, or through more formal means. If you want to document your agreement, you can do so through a Binding or Child Support Agreement.

Binding Child Support Agreements can be complex, and must comply with specific requirements set out by legislation. However, they can also be very flexible and a legal professional can draft them to cater to your specific circumstances. If you think you may benefit from a Binding Child Support Agreement, or would like to discuss your options about such a document, then Australian Family Lawyers can help. Contact us today to arrange an initial consultation and discuss all your options.

5. How far can child support be backdated in Australia?

It’s not easy to have child support backdated. So you should always try to make a claim as soon as possible. The courts can only order the backdating of child support if one party successfully appeals a child support refusal decision. Some backdating of payments is then considered fair because the other party had reasonable notice.

If you’re on a private collect agreement and the other parent isn’t meeting their payment obligations, contact Services Australia who can collect overdue payments going back:

  • up to 3 months in normal circumstances
  • up to 9 months in exceptional circumstances.

6. Can child support take my tax return in Australia?

Yes, Services Australia may take your tax return to pay any outstanding child support. If this would cause you financial hardship, you can phone the Child Support enquiry line for assistance before you lodge your return.

7. When will I receive my child support payment?

Child support payments are transferred to cover the month just ended, not the month ahead. They are typically transferred by Services Australia on any business day on/after the 8th day of the month.

8. Does child support count as income?

The Australian Taxation Office does not consider child support payments as taxable income. This means you will not have to pay tax on any child support you receive.

9. Do child support payments reduce my taxable income?

Yes, you can deduct any child support you have paid when calculating your adjusted taxable income. This extends beyond the payments collected by Services Australia to also include private maintenance paid to the other parent and non-cash maintenance benefits. For example, this could include school fees and clothes.


Talk to Australian Family Lawyers for advice

Going through a divorce with a child is difficult and stressful, and financial uncertainty doesn’t help. Whether you’ll be paying or receiving child support payments, we can help you come to a fair child support arrangement with your former partner.

Need some advice? Fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch with you. Alternatively, learn more about child support with the Services Australia calculator.

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