The Child Support Scheme (the Scheme) aims to ensure that children receive an adequate level of financial support from both parents following separation.
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) works to develop and improve child support policy to enable more effective delivery of the Scheme.
The Child Support Agency (CSA) which is part of the Department of Human Services (DHS) portfolio, administers the Scheme and provides services to customers. The Scheme assists separated parents to take joint responsibility for the financial support of their children by:
- assisting with calculating how much child support should be paid based on the parents financial ability to do so and also the percentage of care; and
- facilitating the collection and transfer of child support payments.
More information is available at www.csa.gov.au or by calling the CSA on 13 1272.
Child support legislation
- Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989
- Child Support (Assessment) Regulation
- Child Support (Assessment) (Overseas-Related Maintenance Obligations) Regulations 2000
- Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988
- Child Support (Registration and Collection) Regulations 1988
- Child Support (Registration and Collection) (Overseas-Related Maintenance Obligations) Regulations 2000
- Family Law Act 1975
- Family Law Rules 2004
- Family Law Regulations 1984
- Family Law (Bi-Lateral Arrangements - Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1998
- Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986
- Family Law (Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1998
- Family Law (Judges) Regulations
- Family Law (Superannuation) Regulations 2001
Note: the links provided here are to 'pasted copies' of legislation. This means they are copies of the original acts with subsequent amendments added. If there have been recent changes to the legislation, check the legislation to see that the latest amendments have been added. If an amendment has not been added, look at the amending legislation to determine the relevant changes.
Child support policy
FaHCSIA helps ensure parents and families have choices and opportunities for the financial support of children through the development, implementation and monitoring of policies that promote parental responsibility through the payment of child support.
Child Support Scheme administration
The Child Support Scheme was introduced on 1 June 1988. The Child Support Agency (CSA) was established as part of the Australian Taxation Office to administer the Child Support Scheme. It is now part of the Department of Human Services. Under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, the Commissioner of Taxation was given responsibility for collecting periodic child and spousal maintenance.
Legislation that enables the administration of the Child Support Scheme includes:
- Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, which moved the collection and enforcement of child support from the courts to an administrative agency (CSA).
- Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989, which introduced a formula to calculate child support liabilities through an administrative, rather than judicial, procedure.
For more information visit www.csa.gov.au or call the CSA on 13 1272.
The Child Support Scheme – At a glance
Child support payments
A separated family may have child support assessed under a formula assessment, an agreement or court order registered with the Child Support Agency (CSA). Child support payments can be transferred privately or either party can ask the CSA to transfer the payments.
The child support formula
In July 2008, the current formula was introduced to calculate the amount of child support paid between separated parents. The formula:
- bases the costs of children on Australian research. The research shows that as income rises, spending on children rises in dollar terms, but falls as a percentage of income, and that expenditure on children rises with age;
- uses an ‘income shares’ approach to calculate and share the costs of children. This means the cost of children is based on the parents’ combined incomes, the cost is distributed between the parents by their capacity to pay and the cost of regular or shared care by the non-resident parent is considered; and
- allows both parents the same self-support amount. The self-support amount for 2010 is $19,618. This amount is indexed annually.
Levels of care
The terms for the levels of care used in the Scheme are:
|Term||Percentage of Care||Number of nights|
|Below regular||0 to less than 14 per cent||0 to 51|
|Regular||14 per cent to less than 35 per cent||52 to 127|
|Shared||35 per cent to 65 per cent||128 to 237|
|Primary||More than 65 per cent to 86 per cent||238 to 313|
|Above Primary||More than 86 per cent to 100 per cent||314 to 365|
More details on the formula and the procedures used by the CSA to administer the Scheme are contained in The Guide.
Change of assessment
If parents feel that the formula does not fully reflect their or their children’s circumstances they may be able to apply to the CSA for a change of assessment. For more details on change of assessment visit The Guide
The Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT)
Since 1 January 2007 the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) has the jurisdiction to independently review child support decisions.
Before applying to the SSAT, parents must first seek an internal review (objection) through the Child Support Agency (CSA). If parents are unhappy with the CSA's decision they can then apply to the SSAT for review of that objection decision.
For more information call the SSAT on 1800 011 140 or visit www.ssat.gov.au.
Family Tax Benefit (FTB)
Family Tax Benefit is a payment to help families with the cost of raising dependent children. Family Tax Benefit has two parts - Part A and Part B.
Family Tax Benefit Part A is the primary payment designed to help with the cost of raising children. It is payable to a parent/guardian or an approved care organisation for a child aged under 21 years or a dependent full-time student aged between 21 and 24 years.
Family Tax Benefit Part B is designed to provide extra help to families with one main income earner, including sole parent families, with a dependent child aged under 16, or dependent full-time student up to the age of 18 years.
Child support payments and FTB Part A are closely linked. The amount of child support parents pay or receive can affect their entitlement to FTB Part A. This is important to know, even if parents arrange their child support privately with the other parent or have a child support agreement.
For more information call the Family Assistance Office on 13 61 50 or visit the Family Assistance Office website.
The Child Support Agency and Family Assistance Office alignment of care measure
The Australian Government is improving the process and aligning the rules used for determining care levels for separated parents who are both child support and family assistance customers.
What is alignment of care?
Previously, the Family Assistance Office (FAO) and the Child Support Agency (CSA) applied different rules to determine the level of care used to calculate family assistance and child support payments.
The alignment of care allows a single determination of care to be made for both family assistance and child support purposes, using one set of rules.
Separated parents, who are customers of both the FAO and CSA, are now able to have their care arrangements assessed by just one agency, either the CSA or the FAO. The other agency simply recognises the change and updates the details. This means that parents only have to tell their story once.
Why is the CSA and Family Assistance Office aligning care?
Aligning the rules for determining care between the CSA and the FAO provides consistency in decisions about the level of care being provided by parents for customers dealing with both agencies. This is expected to reduce objections and appeals flowing from the separate determinations in each agency.
By aligning the rules for determining care levels, the Government aims to remove the strain put on parents who have to deal with two agencies, and two different sets of rules.
When were the changes implemented?
This measure was implemented from 1 July 2010. It applies to all new care determinations made on or after 1 July 2010. CSA and Centrelink have made systems changes to provide for the automatic transfer of care determinations between each agency from July 2010.
What do parents need to do?
Parents don’t need to do anything. These changes were implemented from 1 July 2010. These changes only apply to new care determinations made on or after 1 July 2010. From 1 July 2010, separated parents can apply to have their percentage of care worked out under the new rules, even if their care arrangements have not changed. Until 1 July 2010, parents will still need to tell both the CSA and the FAO about any changes to their care arrangements. If parents do not tell both offices about the change, their child support assessment or Family Tax Benefit calculation may continue to be calculated on their previous care arrangements.
Where can parents get more information?
Full details of these changes are available on the Family Assistance Office website, calling 13 6150 or asking a Centrelink Customer Service Centre or Medicare Australia office. Alternatively, parents can contact the Child Support Agency by visiting the Child Support Agency website or calling 13 1272. Separated parents will also receive this information in agency newsletters, websites and e-bulletins.
Income estimates improvements
The Australian Government recently implemented changes to improve the process for parents who choose to estimate their income for child support purposes. In some circumstances, if a parent’s income changes significantly, they can choose to have their child support assessment based on an estimate of their income.
Estimating income may be appropriate for parents who have experienced the loss of a job or contract, have a significant reduction in hours of work or overtime, or have recently started receiving Centrelink benefits.
Why is the process for lodging an income estimate changing?
Under the recent changes, the process is simpler for parents who choose to estimate their income and provide more responsive reconciliation of estimates. With greater accuracy of child support assessments through the simplified estimate process, children will receive the appropriate level of financial support from their parents.
What are the improvements to income estimates?
From 1 July 2010, the estimate period changed to a maximum of 12 months, aligning to financial years. The 15-month child support period will still apply, ensuring that assessments are based on the most recent income information available.
Under the new process, when parents lodge an income estimate they will be asked to provide their year-to-date adjusted taxable income, and an estimate of their expected adjusted taxable income for the remainder of the financial year.
After the estimate period ends, and when the relevant taxable income amount becomes available for that year, their estimate will be automatically compared to their actual adjusted taxable income for the year.
Where a parent’s actual adjusted taxable income is equal to, or lower than, the estimated income, the estimate will be confirmed. If their adjusted taxable income is higher, their child support will be reassessed for the estimate period based on their actual adjusted taxable income.
When were the changes implemented?
The changes took effect from 1 July 2010.
If parents wish to estimate their income, what do they need to do?
If parents wish to lodge an estimate of their income, they must follow the current process (as outlined on the Child Support Agency website www.csa.gov.au ), or call the Child Support Agency on 131 272.
Where can parents get more information?
Full details of these changes are available on the Family Assistance Office website, calling 13 6150 or asking a Centrelink Customer Service Centre or Medicare Australia office. Alternatively, parents can contact the Child Support Agency by visiting the Child Support Agency website or calling 13 1272.
Separated parents will also receive this information in agency newsletters, websites and e-bulletins.