Description of the Child Support Scheme

The child support scheme (the scheme) aims to ensure that children receive an appropriate level of financial support from parents who are separated.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) has the responsibility for the administration of the child support legislation and works to develop and improve child support policy to enable more effective delivery of the scheme.

Services Australia delivers the scheme and provides services to parents and carers. Services Australia assists parents to apply for a child support assessment and facilitates the collection and transfer of child support payments. More information about the services provided by Services Australia to separated families can be found on the Services Australia website or by calling Services Australia on 131 272.

Child support legislation and policy

Commonwealth child support legislation is located on the Federal Register of Legislation website and can be accessed below:

The Child Support Guide provides a plain English explanation of child support policy and legislation.

Child support assessments

Child support payments are calculated according to an administrative formula that uses an income shares approach and is based on research into the cost of raising children in Australia.

The formula:

  • uses the combined income of both parents to calculate child support payments;
  • excludes the same self-support amount from both parents’ incomes, treating them in the same way;
  • calculates child support payments based on the costs of raising children, according to the incomes of both parents; and
  • recognises both parents' contributions to the cost of their children through care.

If parents feel that the formula does not reflect the special circumstances of their case, they may apply to Services Australia for a change of assessment. Under this process, Services Australia can examine the broader financial circumstances of both parents and make a decision to depart from the formula assessment.

Parents may also choose to negotiate their own child support arrangements through a child support agreement. Agreements can specify the amount, frequency and method of payments but must meet the requirements of the legislation in order to be accepted by Services Australia.

Child support payments

Child support payments can be transferred privately, or Services Australia can collect and transfer the payments on parents’ behalf.

Where payments are not made voluntarily, Services Australia has a range of powers to enforce the collection of child support.

These include:

  • deducting child support from a parent’s salary or wage;
  • intercepting tax refunds; collecting from third parties such as banks;
  • deducting payments from social security and other government payments;
  • preventing a person from leaving Australia without paying the debt or making a suitable payment arrangement; and
  • litigation action to recover a child support debt in any court with family law jurisdiction.

Appealing child support decisions

Most child support decisions can be reviewed through the objection process. If a parent disagrees with a decision made on their case, they can lodge an objection with Services Australia for an internal review. More information about the objection process can be found at Objections to child support decisions on the Services Australia website or by calling Services Australia on 13 1272.

If either parent disagrees with the objection decision, they can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for an independent review of the decision.

Some decisions made by the AAT can be appealed to the AAT for a second review, such as care percentage decisions. More information about the AAT review process can be found on the AAT website or by calling the AAT on 1800 228 333.

Decisions made by the AAT can only be appealed to a court due to an error of law.

Interaction with Family Tax Benefit

Family Tax Benefit (FTB) is a payment that helps families with the cost of raising children. FTB Part A is paid per child and the amount paid is based on each family's circumstances, while FTB Part B is paid per family and gives extra help to single parents and families with one main income.

Child support payments and FTB Part A are closely linked. In order to receive more than the base rate of FTB Part A, separated parents are required to apply for a child support assessment through Services Australia, even if parents arrange the transfer of their child support payments privately with the other parent. The amount of child support that parents pay or receive can also affect their entitlement to FTB Part A.

For more information about FTB, call Services Australia on 13 61 50 or visit Family Tax Benefit on the Services Australia website.

International maintenance

A person may still be entitled to child support if they or the other parent live in another country. Australia operates under a range of international arrangements for child support and has cooperative arrangements with a number of Commonwealth and European jurisdictions, known as ‘reciprocating jurisdictions’.

Services Australia can assist parents with their international child support arrangements, depending on their individual circumstances. This may include:

  • applying for an Australian child support assessment;
  • registering a maintenance order, assessment or agreement from another country for collection in Australia; or
  • obtaining an Australian court order that requires the other parent to pay child support.

For more information about the assistance Services Australia can provide, call 13 1272.

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