Child support payments

The  Department of Human Services (DHS) administers Australia’s Child Support Scheme and works with separated parents to manage their child support responsibilities for the benefit of their children.

It’s important to notify DHS within 14 days of any changes to your employment and income circumstances as well as any changes to your child’s circumstances and care arrangements. If you lose your job or your income is reduced, this may reduce your child support obligations. By keeping DHS informed, you’ll be paying or receiving the correct amount of child support. DHS will advise the other parent if your payment obligations change as a result of any changes to your income.

Advising DHS of your changed circumstances

When you are in stable employment, your child support obligations are based (among other things), on your income. as determined by your last tax return and your expected income for the upcoming 12 months. However, any unforeseen change of circumstances such as losing your job or earning less income, will mean the payments you are required to make for your children may change.

You should advise DHS of any changes to income within 14 days of the event that led to the change in income.

You can request that DHS use an estimate of your  adjusted taxable income for the current year to calculate your child support payment where your circumstances have changed if:

  • your child support payments are already based on an adjusted  taxable income from your tax return or advice to DHS of an adjusted taxable income ; and
  • your current adjusted taxable income is at least 15% less than the income used in the assessment.

You may not be able to request that DHS use  an estimate for any part of your assessment period that is based on :

  • an agreement between yourself and the other parent; or
  • a determination made under the change of assessment process; or
  • a court order.

For more information about child support payments, including how to request an estimate call the Child Support Info Service on 131 107.

Note that if you become bankrupt, you will not be released from child support debts unless a court orders otherwise. and will usually have to continue to pay child support.

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Providing information for calculation of child support payments

The best way to ensure you are paying the correct amount of child support is to lodge your tax return on time every year.

If you lodge your tax return late and are earning less income, DHS may not be able to backdate reduced payments unless there are exceptional circumstances.

If you are not required to lodge a tax return, you must lodge a Request for Taxable Income Details form on Child Support Online Services or contact DHS.

If you have not lodged a tax return for two years and DHS is unable to determine your income – either from information you provide or other information they have – they will use a default income of at least two thirds of a current annual weekly earnings figure published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics each year.

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If you don’t pay required child support

If you are in arrears with your child support payments, you should contact DHS and try to make an arrangement to repay them. They may accept an amount on top of what you are already paying to clear the arrears over an extended period of time. If your circumstances change you should tell the DHS immediately.

If you don’t pay your child support, DHS has the power to collect overdue amounts in a number of ways, including automatic deductions  from the paying parent’s pay or income support payment or working with banks to deduct money from a paying parent’s bank account.

child support payments and arrears are not cleared by bankruptcy.

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Further information

Contact DHS on 13 12 72.

Legal advice regarding maintenance or child support issues is available through Victoria Legal Aid’s Child Support Legal Service on  03 9629 0408 or 1300 792 387.

If you are in need of further support, there are a number of support groups, websites, publications and services available. These can be found on the Department of Human Services website.

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