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Child Maintenance and Support

Responsibility for the financial support of children lies with both parties to a relationship regardless of whether the parties are or have been married or have remarried, are living in a de facto relationship or never lived in a relationship at all.

Child Support is generally paid and received by parties via the Child Support Agency (“CSA”) or CSA.

The rules regarding Child Support and the CSA are primarily found within the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988. The Act applies to all children born on or after 1 October 1989 or to children born before that date and whose parents separated after that date.

Pursuant to the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, the parties have a number of options. These include:

  • Making a Child Support Agreement. This is a written agreement, signed by the parties and registered with the CSA. Agreements allow parties to have more control over the level and allocation of payments. Payments under an agreement can be made privately or via the CSA.
  • By requesting that the CSA use a formula to work out how much Child Support should be paid and then making arrangements for payments to be made privately without the involvement of the CSA.
  • By requesting that the CSA to use a formula to work out how much Child Support should be paid and request that the CSA collect and distribute maintenance payments.

Child support is payable to a person who satisfies the following criteria:

  • Someone who cares for a child at least 110 nights in the 12 months following an application for assessment;
  • Is not living as a partner with the person who pays child support; and
  • Is an eligible carer. An eligible carer is a person who is the sole or principal provider of ongoing daily care of a child, has major contact with the child, shares the ongoing daily care of a child or has substantial contact with the child.

Child Support generally ceases to become payable when child/children attain the age of 18 years, but in some circumstances Child Support may be payable beyond the age of 18 such as where a child embarks upon further study at a tertiary institution. There are also instances where a Child Support obligation may come to an end before a child attains the age of 18 years, for example, if they commence full time work.

The Child Support Agency will not accept an application for child support to be assessed unless it is satisfied that the paying parent is a parent of the child. For further information on parentage please refer to our section on DNA testing.

In some situations where an assessment of Child Support under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and associated legislation cannot be made, the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia may make an Order for the payment of Child Maintenance under the Family Law Act 1975.

Parties are always free to enter into private Child Support arrangements and do not require the involvement of the Child Support Agency or the Court.

Accordingly, it is the carer’s decision to pursue Child Support payments. However, if the carer of the child is in receipt of a benefit from Centrelink, appropriate action must be taken by the carer to obtain Child Support or risk losing their benefit.

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