What Does Child Support Cover in Australia?

Child support exists in Australia to provide financial support to children under 18. One parent is obliged to pay the other parent child support to cover a variety of expenses, from food to clothes and education.

To calculate child support, the amount can either be negotiated through private discussion between parties, or it can be assessed by the DHS (Services Australia). Key factors considered when calculating the amount include; the number of children, the age of these children, both parent’s income, the money required for parents to support themselves, and how much time each parent spends caring for their children.

Once an amount is confirmed by the DHS, the parent who receives the child support can use the money to cover several costs. In this article, our family lawyers explain what exactly child support covers in Australia.


What Does Child Support Cover?

There are no set rules or regulations as to what child support payments can and cannot be used for in Australia. Ordinarily, the amount might be used to cover expenses involved with raising a child, such as food, clothing, housing, medical costs, school costs, and other activity-related costs.

When a child support case is assessed by DHS (Services Australia), they will send a letter that reports on the assessment and determines a lump sum to be paid regularly to the primary caregiver. Once the recipient receives their lump sum, it is their responsibility to allocate the funds based on the needs of the child/ren.

However, if the paying parent does make additional payments in the specified period, these payments can be credited by the DHS towards the amount payable. These payments are referred to as either ‘prescribed’ or ‘non-agency’ payments.


Prescribed Payments and Non-Agency Payments

Prescribed Payments

Prescribed payments apply in situations where the paying parent maintains less than 14% of the childcare responsibility. Under section 71C of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, up to 30% of the child support can be credited, even if the receiving parent does not agree. Prescribed expenses include:

  • School uniforms and text books;
  • School fees;
  • Medical and dental expenses;
  • Housing expenses such as mortgage repayments or rent;
  • Vehicle usage and maintenance costs; and
  • Childcare costs.

Non-Agency Payment

A ‘non-agency payment’ is one made to the other parent or third party on behalf of the receiving parent or both parents. It does not necessarily need to be a monetary transaction and may be in the form of property ownership transfer or service provision. The DHS must believe that both parents are in an agreement that this payment was made towards child support.


Special Circumstances and Child Support

There may be special circumstances that can alter what is covered in the child support amount, for instance, if the child has a large or unusual medical expense. Reasons for change to the child support assessment are listed under section 117(2) of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. The child support payment recipient needs to apply for a change to the child support assessment by completing and submitting this form.


What Does Child Support Not Cover in Australia?

The child support amount in Australia is usually insufficient to fund costs such as extracurricular activities, private tuition fees, private health insurance and additional costs due to a child’s special needs.

The Child Support (Assessment) Act provides parents with two types of agreements that set the amount of child support payable when taking these additional costs into account. These agreements are referred to as a Binding Child Support Agreement and a Limited Child Support Agreement.

A Binding Child Support Agreement is a private agreement between both former spouses that outlines payments to be made, including:

  • Periodic payments (i.e. fortnightly payments);
  • Non-periodic payments (i.e. occasional lump sum payments such as private school fees); and/or
  • Third party payments (i.e. payments made to a private health provider)

A Limited Child Support Agreement is a written agreement that can include payment of cash or non-cash items such as health insurance and private school fees. It is suitable for cases with shorter time frames of a maximum of three years. This agreement does not require either party to receive legal advice prior to making the Agreement.


How Can a Family Lawyer Assist You With Child Support Payments in Australia?

If you have separated from your spouse and need assistance pursuing child support payments, please get in touch with our specialist child support lawyers.

At Pullos Lawyers, we have over 30 years’ experience dealing with children’s issues, as well as divorce and spousal maintenance. To speak to one of our lawyers today, please get in touch via email, or call us in our Gold Coast office on (07) 5526 3646, or in Brisbane on (07) 3144 1641.