Child Support

Australian law considers that the parents of children are financially responsible for them, whether the parents were married or in a relationship when the child was born, and regardless of their level of involvement in their child’s life. Child support payments are regular financial contributions that a parent makes towards the welfare and maintenance of their child.

Child support is managed and assessed through Services Australia (a government agency). Payments are based on a formula that takes into consideration factors including parents’ income and the costs of supporting a child. Services Australia will collect and distribute the child support payments.

In some cases, parents may enter into their own child support agreements, which are different to the assessment of child support payments, and generally provide more flexibility.

Applying for a child support assessment

You can apply for child support through Services Australia. The amount of child support varies according to your specific circumstances. Generally, child support is payable for all children until they are 18 years old. Non-parent carers who care for a child may also be eligible to apply for child support from one or both child’s parents.

Services Australia must be convinced that the applicant and paying parent are in fact the parents of the child. Generally, parentage will be accepted by providing a copy of the child’s birth certificate. Adopted children, children from previous same sex relationships and children born through artificial conception are included in the child support scheme. Challenges to parentage may be made through a court and/or DNA testing. Such issues can be complex and emotionally charged – if disputes arise it is recommended that legal advice be obtained as soon as possible.

How is child support calculated?

The amount of child support payable is calculated using a formula that considers various factors such as:

  • the combined income of the parents
  • the respective income of each parent
  • the length of time the child spends with each parent
  • the costs of raising children relative to specific age ranges and the capacity for the parents to meet those costs
  • each parent’s responsibility for supporting other children
  • the age of the child and other children in the care of each parent
  • the basic living needs of each parent

Payments can vary over time because of changes in the financial or personal circumstances of the parents or child.

Objecting to a child support assessment decision

Sometimes a child support assessment may not fully consider the special needs of a child, or the circumstances of a parent or carer. Additionally, parents who pay child support may have had a change in circumstances since the assessment was made, which now makes it difficult to meet these payments.

Either parent may be able to apply for a reassessment of child support and both will be notified in writing of the decision reached. If either party is still unhappy with the decision, an objection may be lodged, after which an internal review will take place.

After the internal review decision is made, there may be further limited grounds for appeal through a specialist division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance may be ordered for children over 18 years of age in limited circumstances, such as where they are engaged in fulltime tertiary studies or have a physical or mental disability. Applications are made through the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. When determining an application, the Court will consider a range of factors including the financial and special needs of a child.


If you need advice regarding child support or would like to make a child maintenance application, our experienced family lawyers can help. Please contact us at [email protected] or call 02 6622 5566 for expert legal advice.