If your children are living with you and you are not living with their other parent, you may be entitled to receive child support.

Your entitlement to child support and how much you will receive is determined administratively by the Child Support Registrar. As a practical matter, those decisions are made by employees of Child Support, which is part of the Department of Human Services.

Family Law Courts have the power to award child maintenance, but only under limited circumstances. If you are eligible for a child support award that is determined administratively by the Child Support Registrar, you must use that procedure rather than asking the court to award child maintenance.

Who can get child support?

Every parent has a duty to support their children. A parent’s duty to support a child exists even if the other parent is capable of supporting the children without assistance. A parent must support his or her minor children whether or not:

  •  The parent is married, separated, or divorced;
  • The parents were married when the child was born;
  •  The parent adopted the child;
  •  Child support has been ordered by the Child Support Registrar;
  • The child lives with either parent or with someone else;
  • The parent chooses not to have contact with the child.

Every minor child in Australia is entitled to financial support from both parents, either directly (by furnishing the child with food, shelter, and other necessities) or indirectly (by paying child support). The purpose of Australia’s child support law is to assure that minor children receive proper financial support from both their parents and that the parents share responsibility for providing support in a way that is fair.

How is child support determined?

The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 created an administrative procedure for the assessment of child support. It was enacted after the legislature determined that child maintenance orders entered by courts were inconsistent, often inadequate, expensive to obtain, and difficult to enforce. The administrative assessment of child support is based on a formula that applies in the same way to every parent.

Several factors determine the amount a parent will be assessed for child support.

  •  Income of each parent (“income percentage”

The first component of the assessment formula is the income of each parent. The assessment formula requires the calculation of an “income percentage” —that is, the percentage of the parents’ combined income that each parent earns. Income percentage determines the parent’s responsibility for child support.

For instance, if the father earns $70,000 and the mother earns $30,000, the father earns 70 percent of the total income and is responsible for 70 percent of the child’s support, while the mother is responsible for 30 percent of the child’s support.

  • Percentage of care

The second component begins with a computation of the percentage of care provided by each parent. In most cases, a percentage of care is determined by the number of nights the child spends with a parent during a one year period. Using simplified math to provide an example, if a child is with the mother five nights per week and with the father two nights per week, the mother’s percentage of care is 71 percent (5 nights times 52 weeks divided by 365 days) while the fathers is 29 percent (2 night times 52 weeks divided by 365 days).

The formula can be adjusted by substituting hours for nights if the child spends substantial time with a parent but does not stay overnight.

  • Cost percentage

After each parent’s percentage of care is determined, it is converted to a “cost percentage” using a table. The cost percentage is an estimate of the cost of care that a parent provides through direct care. In the example above, suppose the mother’s percentage of care is 71 percent and the father’s is 29 percent.

According to the table, the mother’s cost percentage is 76 percent while the father’s cost percentage is 24 percent. The father’s income makes him responsible for 70 percent of the child’s support. Since he only provides 24 percent of the child’s support directly, he will be required to pay child support to the mother.

  • Cost of raising a child

The final component of the formula is the cost of raising a child. That cost depends in part on the combined income that parents living together will typically devote to raising their children. A table, revised each year, indicates the average annual earnings of a male. Using that figure, a second table determines the percentage of their combined incomes that parents devote to raising their children.

That percentage takes into account how much larger or smaller their earnings are than the average annual earnings, the age of the child, and how many other children the parents have. Multiplying that percentage by combined income results in the cost of caring for the children. The cost is capped for people with high incomes.

  • Child support formula

A parent has an obligation to pay child support to the other parent when his or her income percentage is higher than his or her cost percentage. Subtracting the parent’s cost percentage from the parent’s income percentage results in a “child support percentage.”

The basic formula for calculating the obligation to pay child support is:

Child support percentage x Costs of the caring of the child.

The amount of a child support assessment is determined by that formula. A new child support assessment is made each year based on each parent’s current income.

How do I get child support?

If you have a child who is under the age of 18 and you are not married to the other parent or have separated from that parent, you can apply for a child support assessment by contacting the Department of Human Services. You can apply online or by telephone, or you can mail or deliver the application to a Service Centre that provides child support services.

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Author

Taylor & Scott Lawyers Sydney - Mark Youssef

27th March, 2020

Mark is an accredited specialist in Family Law, and an adjunct lecturer in the Master of Applied Law (family law) program and the Family Law elective in the Practical Legal Training program at the College of Law NSW. Mark provides strong representation of his clients and never forgets that no two cases are the same.