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What is child support?

The law says that both parents have a responsibility to support their children financially, whether they are biological or adoptive parents, same-sex or otherwise.

Child support is the name for payments that are paid by one parent to the other to help with the day-to-day costs of raising a child aged under 18 when the parents have separated. This includes food, clothing, education and utilities. They don't include things like orthodontic fees, private school fees or the purchase of a car.

These payments are usually made to the other parent or to another person who has responsibility for care of the child(ren). Payments can also be made to third parties such as a school, private health fund or real estate agent.

The Child support scheme is managed by Services Australia's Child Support team (formerly called Department of Human Service's Child support team).

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance was made if the parents separated before 1 October 1989 and no child of the relationship was born after that date. In most cases, child maintenance orders do not apply as these children are now over 18.

It is now only used if the court has ordered this because a child over 18 is still in full time education or where the child has special needs.

Under this system, if parents are not able to reach an agreement, a maintenance order must be ordered by the court. Applications may be made to court by a parent, adoptive parent, the child or a grandparent.

Child maintenance applications need to be made to the Federal Circuit and Family Court.

See Adult child maintenance.

More information

Legislation

Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989

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

Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

  • Part Vll Division 7—Adult child maintenance

See Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Services Australia

Child support

The child support estimator can help to calculate the amount of child support payable.

See Services Australia—Online estimators(opens in a new window).

Updated