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Child Support Guide
20 May 2024

Child Support Guide Australia: Getting the Way to Financial Security for Your Child

By Family Lawyers Mackay, 20 May 2024
Child Support

Prioritising your child’s well-being is crucial, mainly regarding financial support. Child support laws, custody arrangements, and the details of child support can seem intricate. However, this post will lead you through everything you need to know about child support guides in Australia, enabling you to make well-informed decisions for your child’s future. Continue reading our simple child support guide to enhance your understanding further.

What is Child Support?

Child support is financial assistance paid by one parent to the child’s other parent or carer. The Australian Government’s Child Support Scheme guarantees that children are adequately financially supported by both parents after separation.

The Most Significant Family Law Principle is the Child’s Best Interests

Child support plays an essential part in guarding the best interests and well-being of the child after separation by confirming that the parents hold sufficient economic resources to cover all their costs. This is particularly critical when significant variations exist in the parents’ earning potential and income.

The Process to Apply for Child Support

You can apply for child support through the Department of Human Services, which administers the Child Support Scheme (DOHS). Centrelink offers a form for you to fill out, and you can also make a request online on the DOHS website (navigate to ‘Separated parents‘). Once you have fulfilled all the requirements, DOHS will issue an administrative assessment for child support.

The Child Support Scheme of Australia

The purpose of State-administered child support in Australia, as articulated by the late Bob Hawke, a key figure in the introduction of Australia’s child support scheme in the late 1980s, is to ensure that “No Australian child [shall] live in poverty”.

In broader terms, child support aims to sustain a child’s standard of living and cover all essential needs, such as shelter, food, and necessities. It also upholds both parents’ responsibility to support their child financially post-separation or divorce.

Until 2011, the Child Support Agency was the federal organisation responsible for assessing and collecting child support under the Australian Government’s Child Support Scheme. Following its dissolution, child support became one of the primary programs under the umbrella department “Services Australia”.

The assessment, registration, and collection of child support liabilities are managed under the legislative framework by the sub-department “The Department of Human Services (Child Support)” (DHSCS).

Despite the agency’s cessation in 2011, the informal term “Child Support Agency” and its associated initialism “CSA” are still commonly used by some individuals, including solicitors and judges, out of habit and for simplification.

The amount of a Child Support Payment

In Australia, several factors can influence the amount of child support payment. Instead of having set payment figures, it’s necessary to consider the unique circumstances of each situation before determining a payment figure.

Factors such as the parent’s income, the child’s current expenses, the care the child is receiving, and the child’s future needs all play a role in arriving at a payment figure. Parents can mutually agree on the amount of child support or consider the Services Australia child support payment formula for guidance.

During a child support assessment, Services Australia utilises a detailed formula:

Step 1: First, they calculate each parent’s eligible child support income, subtracting their self-support amount from their income.

Step 2: Then, they add the results from the first step to determine the combined child support income.

Step 3: Next, they calculate the percentage of this income for each parent.

Step 4: Afterward, they determine the percentage of care each parent provides, reflecting the time spent with the child.

Step 5: They then calculate the percentage of parents’ costs for the child’s care using the Care and Cost table on the Services Australia website.

Step 6: Subsequently, they calculate the child support percentage for each parent by subtracting the cost percentage from the income percentage. This helps determine which parent will receive child support and which will pay.

Step 7: They also calculate the costs of the child or children using the Costs of the Children table, available on the Services Australia website, based on the parents’ combined income. This table also accounts for different cost levels based on the children’s ages.

Step 8: Finally, they calculate the total child support amount by multiplying the positive child support percentage by the cost of the child, as determined using the Costs of the Children table.


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.

Child Support Laws and Policy

The Federal Register of Legislation website contains the following Commonwealth child support legislation, which is available to access:

The Child Support Guide explains child support policy and legislation in plain English.

Parenting Agreements and Child Custody

When separated parties share a child, they often need to consider their child’s current and future parenting arrangements. Our child custody lawyers at Family Lawyers Mackay have extensive experience resolving complex parenting issues.

When children are involved in a divorce or separation, the process can become more challenging as many decisions must be made.

When making a parenting order, the court will consider the children’s best interests. It will presume that equal shared parental responsibility is in the children’s best interests unless there has been family violence or child abuse.

Grandparents, extended family members, and other concerned individuals regarding the welfare of children can be included in a parenting plan or consent order. Both parents must be involved in any agreement or order concerning their children.

Our experienced child custody lawyers at Family Lawyers Mackay Legal can help reduce the stress of child custody and parenting agreement issues by supporting you throughout the process.

What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support typically encompasses nine essential needs for all children:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Communications
  • Housekeeping
  • Personal Care
  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Transportation
  • Leisure Activities

Child Support is Paid by Whom?

During separation or divorce, parents must decide whether they prefer equal time, sole custody, or sole custody with substantial time with the other parent. Child support lawyers guide them through this decision-making process.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) most commonly arranges support through an assessment, determining the contributions of both parties based on a legislated formula.

The formula considers both parties’ income and the time each party cares for the child, then calculates the amount owed by each party to the other. DHS collects and distributes payments to the parties. Assessments undergo automatic review and reassessment by DHS after a predetermined period, typically at most 15 months.

Child Support Payments: How They Work

When determining child support initially, there are two calculation methods:

  1. The child support agency within Services Australia can calculate it.
  2. The parents can negotiate an agreement.

The first method involves an administrative assessment by Services Australia, which employs a strict formula considering parents’ income, children’s ages, and each parent’s level of care. For instance, if one parent spends more time with an infant who is still breastfeeding, the other parent typically pays child support.

Services Australia (Child Support) can adjust the assessment if the care arrangement changes. For example, if a parent restricts the other parent’s access to the child, the affected parent can request a reassessment.

The second option entails establishing a Binding or Limited Child Support Agreement negotiated between the parents. They determine the amount and method of child support payment. These agreements ideally allow for flexibility if the care percentage changes significantly. These agreements allow for flexibility if the care percentage changes significantly. However, if the recipient of child support has less than 35% care, the contract terminates unless it includes provisions for a suspension period during care changes.

Assessments and Agreements for Child Support

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent or are unsure how to proceed, you can request a child support assessment from Services Australia. The evaluation will specify the required child support amount and the parent responsible for making payments. Services Australia can assist in facilitating these payments by collecting and transferring them.

Following the child support assessment, you can establish a child support agreement, either binding or limited.

After obtaining independent legal counsel, parents can decide on a legally binding long-term solution called a binding child support agreement. The agreed child support payment can be more, less, or equal to the assessed amount. Payments can be collected privately or through Services Australia’s child support collection program. Ending a binding agreement requires mutual consent or court intervention.

A limited child support agreement does not necessitate independent legal advice but can only be made after a child support assessment by Services Australia. Both parents must agree that the payment amount equals the assessed amount. Ending a limited agreement is relatively more straightforward and can occur through mutual agreement, significant income changes, or after three years since its creation. While legal advice is not mandatory for a limited deal, it is highly recommended.


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.

Child Support vs Child Maintenance?

Child support and child maintenance share similarities but differ in their recipients: Child maintenance pertains to financial support for adults over 18, while child support concerns financial assistance for a child under 18.

Financial aid is provided through child maintenance when ongoing support is necessary, such as completing school or addressing health-related needs requiring continuous care, like a disability.

Adult child maintenance can also be sought if a disability arises after the child turns 18.

How do you pay child support?

Child support offers various payment methods. You can opt for Services Australia to assist in collecting and transferring payments or arrange private collection.

Recognising the risks associated with relying on a private agreement for child support is crucial. Without formalisation or management through Services Australia, enforcing payments can be challenging. If the other parent ceases payments, you may have limited recourse.

Child support payments can be made periodically, non-periodically, or both. Periodic payments are regular (e.g., weekly, fortnightly, monthly) and agreed upon in advance. Non-periodic payments cover specific child-related expenses like school fees, medical costs, and educational expenses.

Who in Australia is Eligible to Apply for Child Support?

Only individuals who meet eligibility criteria can apply for child support payments. Eligible applicants include legal parents and non-parent carers.

Parents must demonstrate their legal parentage, typically through court declarations, inclusion on the child’s birth certificate, presence on adoption papers, or a statutory declaration.

Non-parent carers, like grandparents, legal guardians, or relatives, may apply for child support under specific circumstances. To do so, they must provide:

  • Proof of their relationship to the child, if a blood relative.
  • Provide proof of their relationship to the child if they are a blood relative.
  • Information regarding the duration of the child’s care under their supervision.
  • Details about any shared care arrangements with either parent.
  • Their relationship with either parent.

It is advisable to consult a family lawyer before initiating a child support application, whether as a parent or non-parent carer. They can offer guidance on options and eligibility.

Clarification on Child Support with Family Lawyers Mackay

Guiding the intricacies of child support can be overwhelming, potentially leading to stress and tension between separating partners when done alone. With Family Lawyers Mackay’s dedicated team, you can expect precise, empathetic, and results-oriented guidance.

More than just a law firm, we serve as partners in your journey. Whether you’re seeking clarity on your obligations or feel you need to receive appropriate support for your child, our expertise is here to provide guidance and assistance.

Child support reflects a child’s right to a fair and fulfilling life. At Family Lawyers Mackay, we’re committed to ensuring this principle is upheld, understood, and facilitated every step of the way.


By consulting one of our accredited family law mackay specialists.


What percentage of your earnings must you pay child support?

The percentage of your income required for child support depends on your care arrangements and income, among other factors. To determine the specific amount for your situation, you must undergo a child support assessment through Services Australia or seek advice from a lawyer.

In Australia, what is the maximum amount of child support?

In Australia, the highest amount of child support is determined by adding the two parents’ incomes, up to 2.5 times the annual equivalent of the Costs of Children Table and the Male Total Average Weekly Earnings. For a detailed overview, consult the Australian Government Child Support Guide or contact Australian Family Lawyers.

When does one in Australia stop making child support payments?

Child support payments typically cease when a child reaches 18. However, if the child is still attending high school, you can apply to extend support payments until the end of the school year.

Can the other parent and I formally establish a private agreement?

Yes, you can formalise a private agreement with the other parent without involving Services Australia. This can be done informally or through more formal channels. If you wish to document the deal, you can do so via a Binding or Child Support Agreement.

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