A Guide to Calculating Child Support in Australia

All children whose parents have separated, whether they were married or not, are eligible for child support payments in Australia. Child support can be quite complex, and every situation is unique. If you are currently working through a separation or divorce, you may be wondering how child support payments and calculations will affect you. Our family lawyers talk through how these payments are calculated.


What is Child Support in Australia?

Child support is designed to ensure that children receive an appropriate level of financial support from both of their separated parents, just as they would if their parents hadn’t separated. In Australia, child support can cover expenses such as medical and school costs, food, clothing and costs related to other activities.

If you choose to self manage your child support, then both spouses must come to an agreement as to how much is paid, when it is paid and how it is paid. A self-managed child support agreement does not need to go through the DHS (Services Australia), however, if you cannot come to an agreement in regards to child support, then you will need to have a child support assessment through Services Australia.


Information Used to Calculate Child Support

In order to calculate the amount of child support to be paid or received, Services Australia will conduct an assessment and calculate the amount using a relatively complex formula. However, this is the fundamental information required to calculate child support.

  1. Services Australia will calculate each parent’s taxable income minus self-support amount (income needed to maintain themselves) minus the costs of any dependents (children other than the ones included in your child support case). This amount equates to your child support income.
  2. The combined income of both parents is used to calculate a combined child support income.
  3. Each parents’ individual income percentage is calculated by dividing each income by the combined total.
  4. Each parent’s care percentage is calculated based on the amount of care a parent provides. According to Services Australia, there are five levels of care – below regular care, regular care, shared care, primary care, and more than primary care. For instance, if a child spends most of the time living with one parent, the care percentage might be 70% vs 30%. Therefore, one parent has primary care of their child.
  5. The cost percentage of each parent is calculated by referencing this care and cost table.
  6. To work out each parents’ child support percentage, the cost percentage is subtracted from the income percentage for each parent. A negative child support percentage means that this parent will receive child support. A positive percentage means that parent must pay child support.
  7. According to the costs of children table, the children’s costs will be worked based on the parents’ combined child support income, the number of children and the children’s ages.
  8. To work out the total amount of child support payable, the positive child support percentage is multiplied by the costs of the child.


Change of Circumstances That Affect Child Support

A change of circumstances, whether it is a change to your relationship or your income, may affect your child support in Australia. The key circumstances include:

  • Income changes: You should notify Services Australia of any changes to your income since your last assessment. An estimate of your income may be used for the current financial year instead.
  • Relationship changes: If you and the other parent get back together, you must notify Services Australia as soon as possible so they can suspend your child support for up to 6 months. The suspension will end once you’ve been together for 6 months.
  • You separate again: If you and the other parent separate again during the 6 month suspension, either parent can ask for the child support to restart. These payments will commence from the new separation date. If it is after the 6 month suspension, you will need to apply for a new child support assessment.
  • A second family: If you have a child with a new partner, this may affect your current child support.

To learn more about any other relevant change of circumstances, please reach out to Services Australia.


Speak to Our Family Lawyers About Child Support in Australia

If you require further legal advice regarding your child support amount in Australia, please get in touch with us at Emerson Family Law. Our team are experienced in dealing with all children’s matters, including child maintenance and even paying child support if one parent lives overseas. Please get in touch with our team to see how we can assist.