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All parents are expected to contribute to the financial support of their children whether they were married, lived in a de facto relationship, or never lived together. The amount the liable parent must pay depends upon the income and financial situation of both parents.

The Child Support Agency (CSA) was set up as part of the Australian Tax Office to administer Child Support. Before this system was introduced, up to 80 percent of separated fathers were avoiding payment of child support. This meant that women were increasingly relying on social security payments. The CSA was introduced to make it more difficult for parents to avoid paying and thus ease the burden on Centrelink. Statistics indicate that around 70 percent of liable parents now pay child support.

The CSA manages collection of child support. It can do so either by arranging for an employer to deduct payments from a parent's pay, or by having the parent send the money to the agency. Generally, use of the CSA to assess and collect child support is voluntary. Parents may make their own private arrangements for the financial support of their children.

The CSA, Centrelink, community legal centres including the Hobart Community Legal Service’s Child Support Service, and the Legal Aid Commission's Child Support Service can all assist with information on these matters.

A parent or other person who cares for a child and who is an ‘eligible carer’ as defined by the Child Support Assessment Act (Cth) 1989 (CSAA) may get child support. The parent assessed as having to pay child support is known in the Act as the ‘liable parent’.

To be an eligible carer, a person must be either:

  • a person who is the sole or principal provider of daily care to the child;
  • a person who shares the daily care of the child with another person who is not the same person from whom the maintenance is sought; or
  • a person who is jointly responsible for care of the child.

The CSA determines the amount the liable parent must pay using a formula based on both parent’s taxable incomes and the amount of time the child/children spend/s with each parent. The formula is designed to cover many different situations and allows for different family circumstances.

If the eligible carer receives more than the minimum amount of family tax benefit and/or receives parenting payment from Centrelink, then Centrelink will require the carer to take reasonable steps to obtain child support from the other parent. There are exemptions from this requirement, however they must fit within Centrelink guidelines such as fear of violence from the other party, whereabouts of the other party not known, or paternity not established. The social workers at Centrelink can assist people who are concerned about making a child support application. Child support can only be sought from a parent of the child who is present in Australia at the date of the application.

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