Child support is a complicated and often contentious area of law. Given the number of variables involved, obtaining advice from a specialised family lawyers can provide you with clarity and certainty about the best steps to take.

Child Support Lawyers in NSW

Note: We are not a child support agency. We are lawyers who can assist you with child support matters.

How is child support assessed?

The amount you are required to provide can be determined by having a Child Support Assessment.

An assessment occurs by the Department of Human Services (Child Support Agency (CSA)) calculates payments based on a legislative formula. The formula is based on the cost of children, the income of both parents, the arrangement for the care of children for whom child support is payable, whether the parents have any relevant dependent children living with them and whether the parents have any children in other child support cases. Paying parents may be able to have ongoing child support payments adjusted where the paying parent is making prescribed payments in addition to the payment of child support.

Prescribed payments include school or child care fees, essential medical or dental fees, payments towards the rent or utilities of the person receiving the payment.

You can estimate the amount of child support that is payable by using the Department of Human Services child support estimator by entering your details into the calculator to obtain a guide.

What is the formula?

There is a basic 8 step formula for parents with only one child support assessment.

  1. The CSA calculates each parent’s child support income. This is a parent’s adjusted taxable income minus a self-support amount and any relevant dependant allowance.
  2. The CSA add both parents’ incomes to work out a combined child support income.
  3. The CSA works out each parent’s income percentage by dividing each parent’s income by their combined total.
  4. The CSA calculates each parent’s percentage of care.
  5. THE CSA works out each parent’s cost percentage using the care and cost table.
  6. THE CSA subtracts the cost percentage from the income percentage for each parent. The CSA calls this the child support percentage. The result will determine if a parent pays or receives child support. If it is a negative percentage, the CSA will assess that parent as the parent to receive child support. This is because their share of costs for the child is more than met by the amount of care they provide. If it’s a positive percentage, the CSA will assess that parent as the parent to pay child support. This is because they’re not meeting their share of the costs for the child directly through care. If you have different care arrangements for various children, you might have different child support percentages for each child.
  7. The CSA works out the costs for each child based on the parents’ combined total income using the costs of children table.
  8. The CSA works out the total amount of child support payable by multiplying the positive child support percentage by the costs of the child. This final figure is the amount the paying parent needs to pay the other parent.

What happens if I don’t agree with the child support assessment and want to change it?

If a parent does not agree to the assessment by the CSA, a parent can lodge a Change of Assessment Form explaining the reasons why the assessment should be changed.

Our family lawyers can assist you with filling out this form if required.

Can parents reach an agreement in lieu of having an assessment?

Yes, there are two (2) formal agreements that are recognised by the CSA that parents can enter into rather than having an assessment undertaken, they are:

  • Binding Child Support Agreements: Each party must obtain legal advice before entering or terminating this type of Agreement. A binding Child Support Agreement provides for long term arrangements and can only be terminated in extremely limited circumstances.
  • Limited Child Support Agreements: These are more flexible Agreements which do not commit parents to an agreement longer than 3 years. A parent may end the Agreement if the notional assessment changes by more than 15% due to circumstances not contemplated by the Agreement, or after 3 years have elapsed.

Parents need to consider the effect of entering an Agreement on any ‘Family Tax Benefit Part A’ payments that the parent receiving child support may be entitled to.

Our Family Law Team can assist you by drafting an agreement that meets the unique requirements and the best interests of your children.

What are the different ways child support can be collected?

There are three ways in which Child Support may be collected:

Self-management

This is where parents arrange their child support payments without involving the CSA. The parents agree on the amount of child support, agree on how and when to pay it and manage the payments. You don’t need to liaise with the CSA.

You can’t use self management if you receive more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit.

The CSA cannot collect overdue amounts from the paying parent if you use self management.

If self-management is not working out, you can apply for a child support assessment.

Private Collect

A private collect agreement occurs when a child support assessment, agreement or court order sets the amount of child support payable and you and the other parent work out how and when to pay.

A private collect puts the onus on the parents to plan, manage and keep records of the payments. The CSA can collect payments for if the paying parent falls behind. The CSA can collect overdue payments going back:

  • up to 3 months normally
  • up to 9 months in exceptional circumstances

If private collect is not working out, you can:

  • have CSA start collecting your payments through Child Support Collect; or
  • obtain legal advice about getting the other parent to pay what they owe you

CSA Collect

A private collect agreement occurs when there is a child support assessment, agreement or court order sets the amount and the CSA:

  • tell you how and when to pay
  • collect the money from the paying parent
  • transfer it to the receiving parent

Parents do not deal directly with each other the CSA to collect the payments, calculate the Family Tax Benefit and keep records of past and due payments and can collect overdue payments

What child support matters still go to Court?

If a person is unhappy with an assessment or the decision of a Registrar, generally, the first step in the process is to make an objection. This is an internal process, which takes place within the CSA. If you require legal advice about the objection process, one of our family lawyers can assist you.

Parents can still appeal directly to the Court in several circumstances including:

  • Applications to set aside a Child Support Agreement;
  • Urgent Child Support Applications;
  • Declarations that a person is not entitled to a Child Support Assessment based on parentage;
  • Orders for recovery of wrongly paid child support; and
  • Stay Orders pending finalisation of a Court Application.

Minimum and Fixed Child Support Assessments

A fixed rate assessment sets the amount needed to be pay in a year for paying parents who:

  • have a low adjusted taxable income for the last relevant year
  • didn’t receive an income support payment in the last relevant year and
  • don’t have at least shared care of the child

The fixed rate for child support starting on or after 1 January 2017 is $1,390 per child per year.

If a payer pays the fixed rate for more than 3 children, the CSA will cap the amount at 3 times the fixed rate and if the payer pays the fixed rate to more than 1 person, the CSA will divide the amount between those receiving parents.

A paying parent must usually pay at least the minimum rate of child support.

A paying parent may pay this rate if:

  • their child support assessment works out to less than the minimum rate, and
  • they don’t have at least regular care of any of the children in the child support case.

The minimum rate for child support periods starting on or after 1 January 2017 is $420 per year.


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