Chapters

First Steps

There is an online form available. Also, the CSA needs proof that the person from whom the child support is sought is the child's parent (s29(2) Child Support Assessment Act 1989). This requirement is satisfied if:

  • they were married and the child or children are of the marriage;
  • the person’s name appears on the birth certificate;
  • a court has found that they are the child's parent;
  • they acknowledge they are a parent of the child in a legal document (e.g. statutory declaration); or
  • they have adopted the child.

Once paternity is established, the CSA proceeds to make a child support assessment for the current child support period (s31CSAA) which is not necessarily the current calendar or financial year. It will notify both parties of the assessment and of either party's right to apply to the Child support Agency or the Court for a different assessment (ss33-34CSAA). Child support begins from the date the Child Support Agency accepts the application, unless the parent applying for child support causes unreasonable delay in the application process. In that case, the agency will determine a reasonable commencement date for child support payments, according to the circumstances.

The Formula

The assessment is based on a formula applied to both parent’s taxable incomes. You can access a Projected Estimator online. The formula takes into account any other biological or adopted children the liable parent may have to support and allows for an excluded amount of income as ‘self support’, which is the same for each parent regardless of income. The formula then factors in the number of children, and the amount of time each parent will spend with the children. Some examples of Child Support assessment are available.

There is a minimum child support liability for all payers of $7.09 per week ($320 a year) which changes slightly each year with the Consumer Price Index (CPI); however if a liable parent’s income is less than the minimum income set by the Agency , the payment can be reduced to a nil payment. This includes liable parents on social security payments.Examples of the formula for assessment of payment for child support, with variables such as more than one family to support, can be accessed.

A liable parent may ask the Child Support Agency to reduce the amount of child support payment if their current income has fallen by at least 15 percent from the income the original assessment was based on. This is done by lodging an Estimate of Income form.

Either party may apply to the CSA's Departure from Assessment Team to depart from the assessment if they can establish the existence of one or more of the nine grounds (reasons) which are set out in the legislation. Examples of these reasons include that extra costs are incurred in the support of a child with special needs, or that the assessment did not properly take into account the income earning capacity, property and financial resources of one or both of the parties. The parties can have their matter heard by a senior case officer at a conference - either together, separately, by telephone, or based on their written submissions alone. If a party is dissatisfied with the decision of the senior case officer they may make a new departure application to the Family Court. However, they must have been through the above administrative process first.

Proving Paternity

The Family Court has the power to order DNA tests to assist in proving paternity (s69WFLA). Paternity tests are often essential where paternity is in dispute, as some men will not acknowledge their responsibility. These are expensive tests costing $700-$900. The Court can order these costs initially to be shared between the parties. If the test proves positive, the Court can order the father to repay the mother's share of the costs. Legal aid may be available for the mother. In these cases, once a positive paternity test result has been received, they should be asked to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form which can be obtained from the Child Support Agency.

The CSA will not accept results of a paternity test as proof of parentage. The CSA will only stay or depart from an assessment of child support upon receipt of a court order.

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