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What is child support

Child support is a payment made by one or both parents to the other to help with the cost of looking after the children. In some situations, it may be paid by one or both parents to another person who is looking after the children.

Parents can make agreements about child support or they can apply to the Department of Human Services (Child Support) for an administrative assessment.

If you have a dispute about child support, get legal advice.

Child support is usually paid until a child turns 18. Some situations where it may be stopped early include:

  • if the child becomes self-sufficient
  • if the child marries or enters into a defacto or marriage like relationship
  • if the child is adopted
  • if the child dies.

In some circumstances it can be paid for a child over 18. See Child support for over 18s.

Parents can make agreements about child support  or they can apply to the Department of Human Services (Child Support) (DHS) for an administrative assessment .

Calculating child support

The DHS uses a formula to work out how much child support you should pay or receive.

The child support assessment takes into account factors including:

  • the number of children
  • the children’s ages
  • how much money you need to support yourself
  • both parents’ incomes
  • the percentage of care each parent provides for the children.

The DHS will only issue a child support assessment if you can prove the paying parent is a biological, adoptive or same-sex parent .

Spending time with your child

The amount of child support to be paid may change depending on how much time the child spends with each parent. Even parents who spend no time with their child are obligated to pay child support.

Child support and second families

The DHS will take into account any other relevant dependent children when calculating your child support.

A relevant dependent child includes:

  • your biological child
  • your adopted child
  • a child born as the result of an artificial conception procedure
  • a child born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement
  • a child that you have a duty to maintain under the Family Law Act 1975.

For more information on relevant dependent children, visit the DHS website.

Children from the first and following families will be treated the same when calculating child support payments.

Get legal advice.

Changes to your circumstances

Child support assessments can be varied to reflect changes to your situation. You’ll need to tell the DHS about any changes to make sure your child support assessment is accurate.

Changes that may affect your child support payments include:

  • your child is turning 18 and is still in continuing education
  • you and the other parent decide to get back together
  • the amount of care you provide for your child changes
  • you have a child with another partner
  • your child is legally adopted
  • you and the other parent have another child together
  • your child marries or starts to live in a defacto or marriage like relationship
  • a parent or child included in a child support assessment dies.

Disagreements with the child support assessment

If you disagree with the child support assessment, you can ask to have it changed. 

If you’re unhappy with the DHS decision, you can appeal the decision. Get legal advice.

Child support agreements

If you and the other parent agree about the amount, frequency and method of child support payments, you can make a child support agreement.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • there are concerns about who is a child’s biological parent (including DNA testing or providing proof of paternity)
  • one parent lives overseas
  • you are a carer parent and have concerns about child support or child maintenance issues (including the DHS decisions)
  • you are a liable (paying) parent and have questions about child support or child maintenance issues (including the DHS decisions)
  • there have been changes to your child support payments you don't understand.

Where can I get legal advice?

We can give legal advice about child support matters.  

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Caxton Community Legal Centre—give specialist legal advice about child support for both carer parents and liable (paying) parents.

Gold Coast Legal Service— gives legal advice about child support.

Queensland Law Society—can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

Department of Human Services (Child Support) —administers the child support scheme to ensure parents contribute to the costs of raising children after separation. Gives support and help to parents, including calculating, collecting and transferring child support payments.

Federal Circuit Court—makes decision about issues including child support matters.

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