Either parent, or a non-parent carer or other relative caring for the children, can apply to Services Australia (Child Support) for child support and an assessment to work out how much should be paid.
To work out the amount of child support that should be paid, Services Australia (Child Support) will look at:
- each parent’s income and their combined income
- how much time each parent cares for the child ()
- the child’s age
- if a parent has biological or adopted children from past and new families (in the case of stepchildren, a court order is required to be provided).
Levels or percentage of care
This table explains how much of your child support responsibilities are met directly through looking after your children.
Nights per year the children spend with you
Nights per fortnight
Words Services Australia use to describe level of care
Amount of child support met through direct care of your children
‘Below regular care’
25% plus 2% for every percentage point over 35%
51% plus 2% for every percentage point over 53%
‘Above primary care’
If you care for the children 52 nights or more each year and are receiving a Centrelink benefit you may not have to pay child support. This is because you are meeting your share of the children’s costs by looking after them.
If you change the amount of time you care for the children, your child support may also change. This is because your share of the children’s costs may vary depending on how much time you spend looking after them.
You should keep a diary of when the children are in your care.
If you cannot agree on level or percentage of care, you may have to provide relevant documents to confirm patterns of care. These may include court orders, parenting plans, childcare centre and school documents, records of children’s regular activities, visits to health care and other services, or reports from government departments.
You must tell Services Australia as soon as your care arrangements change or if a written agreement is not being followed.
Child support, Family Tax Benefit and your percentage of care
Services Australia (Child Support) and Centrelink now use the same rules to determine the percentage of care for each parent. Whether it is Centrelink or Child Support that first makes a care decision, the other agency will automatically use the same percentage.
Change of circumstances
Tell Services Australia immediately if there are that could affect your child support. This is important, because some changes cannot be backdated. This includes any changes to you or the other parent’s contact details, income, relationship status, or the children and care arrangements.
If you do not tell Services Australia, you might:
- pay the wrong amount of child support and owe money (debt) or pay too much (overpayment)
- get the incorrect child support amount (underpayment or overpayment).
Child support debts and overpayments have to be paid back.
Changing your assessment in special circumstances
If you think that you have special circumstances that make your child support assessment unfair, you can apply to change your assessment. There are 10 . Any decision to change an assessment must be fair ('just and equitable') and the impact on government pensions and benefits has to be considered (‘otherwise proper').
When applying for a change of assessment, the financial circumstances of both parents is relevant. This includes 'income, property and financial resources'. Both parents have an obligation to make a full and complete disclosure of their financial circumstances.
Attach copies of relevant court orders, receipts and/or documents. Services Australia (Child Support) can ask for more information if they need it.
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
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Reviewed 12 April 2022