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How care levels affect payments

Information about how the amount of care that each person provides to a child can affect the child support payments payable.

Child support payments are usually dependent on the amount of care provided by the paying parent. If the parents cannot agree on the amount of care each provides, then Centrelink may work it out.

Care percentage ranges

The Child Support Scheme was set up with the intention that minor changes to the care arrangements would not result in the need for a reassessment. To assist with this, the percentage of care spent with children is usually divided into different categories, ranging from:

  • below regular —0 to 14% of care—0 to 51 nights
  • regular—14% to less than 35% of care—52 to 127 nights
  • shared—35% to 65% of care—128 to 237 nights
  • primary—more than 65% to 86%—238 to 313 nights
  • above primary—more than 86% to 100%—314 to 365 nights.

A parent must care for the child for at least 35% of the time to receive any child support. This is 128 nights. A parent who spends less time than this will not get any child support, despite their income level.

Care of the child for (14%) or 52 nights does not affect the child support assessment. However, a parent who has care of a child for less than 14% or below 52 nights, (considered to be below the regular care level) must pay considerably more child support. This is because child support regards a party who has more than 14% care for the child to be meeting a portion of the costs directly through the care they give.

A parent who has care of the child for more than 237 nights (65%) will not be required to pay child support, regardless of their income.

Services Australia (SA) Child support will look at actual care when determining the percentage of care. Evidence of this may be reflected in a care arrangement, a parenting plan, or by a verbal agreement between the parents, or by a court order.

The usual practice is for child support to look at the number of nights that each parent has care of the child. That is, usually if a person does not have the child for overnight stays it will not affect the level of child support. However, in special circumstances SA Child support may consider the number of hours that a parent has care.

Disagreement about the level of care

Sometimes parties will provide conflicting information about the amount of care they provide for their child. These disputes are common. There a 2 types of disputes:

  • dispute about the amount of care that is actually being provided
  • dispute about one parent not following the care arrangements in a court order or parenting plan.

Interim assessment decision

If there is a dispute about the level of care, for example if there is a parenting plan or order but:

  • one parent is not complying with the care requirements agreed to in a parenting plan or court order, or
  • one parent is refusing to give access to the other parent so they can fulfil their care arrangements (as reflected in a court order, agreement or parenting plan)

SA Child support may make an interim assessment for child support where the parent who is not fulfilling the care duties as agreed, takes reasonable steps to resume their level of care.

For example, a parent could seek family dispute resolution or apply to court for a contravention order to try to increase the level of care to what is reflected in the order, plan or agreement.

Evidence

At the end of the interim determination, SA Child support will ask for details of the pattern of care that each person has. This could be substantiated by:

  • calendar or diary entries showing when a person has care of the children
  • a court order or parenting plan with evidence that the person is following what the order says
  • documents to show that a child is in cay care, school or regular activities
  • records of visits to health care or other services
  • school reports
  • photographs that include time and date
  • statements made by other people (this could include voice recordings, text messages and social media posts)\.

SA Child support will use the information to determine the percentage of care based on the information they have.

See Services Australia—Online estimators(opens in a new window) and 'Details of your child's care arrangements form' in Department of Human Services Forms

If care level changes

Parents should advise SA Child support of any changes to the level of care within 28 days because there is no backdating. Minor changes due to illness or work requirements will not be considered a change of care.

More information

Legislation

Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth)

  • s. 5(3)—defines shared care
  • Part 5 for explanations of the different formulas that may be used

See Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Services Australia

The Australian Government's Child Support Guide has the following information.

See:


The Services Australia site also has the following information:

Updated