Australia: Reasons for Varying the Amount to be Paid for Child Support Under the Child Support (Assessment) Act

Swaab Connect

In brief

The Child Support Agency has produced a plain English document setting out ten possible reasons for varying child support payments.

Child support - background and definitions

As I highlighted in an earlier article, Child Support Arrangements in Australia, the two Acts of Federal Parliament that deal with child support (the most significant being the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989) are unnecessarily complex. They include unnecessarily complex definitions and terminology.

Child support as a topic provides a real challenge to most family lawyers and judges. In an endeavour to make the legislation more user friendly, the Child Support Agency (CSA) has now produced a document in plain English detailing the various circumstances in which a party could seek to change the amount of child support.

Today, either parent of a child can make an application to the CSA for a determination of how much money one parent should pay to the other parent by way of child support. Such a determination by the CSA is called an Assessment. The Assessment specifies the amount of periodic child support that is payable. This is usually expressed as an amount that is to be paid each month by the non-custodial parent.

The person who is required to pay child support is referred to as either the "liable parent" or "payer". This person can only be the biological parent of the child. A person who is assessed to pay child support can have a child support assessment terminated if he can prove that he is not the biological parent of the child.

Child support is received by the carer entitled to child support, usually referred to as the "carer". This person is usually the biological parent of the child. However, the carer can be someone other than the biological parent of the child, for example, a grandparent. The carer is the person who is actually caring for the child. This person can also be called the "payee".

Non-periodic child support payments

As an alternative to periodic child support, or in addition to it, a liable parent can also be assessed, ordered or agree to pay "non-periodic child support". Non-periodic child support can include payment of school fees, medical expenses and medical insurance. If the liable parent is paying non-periodic child support, the periodic child support might be reduced to take the non-periodic payments into account.

Child support departure applications

If either the payer or the payee seeks to change the amount of the Assessment then that person makes a "departure application". This application is normally made to the CSA although it can sometimes be made to a Family Law Court. Such an application is called a departure application because the applicant is seeking either for the CSA or a Family Law Court to depart from the amount of the assessment or depart from the formula used in making the assessment.

The various matters which either the CSA, or a Family Law Court is required to take into account when determining a departure application are set out in a particular section of the Assessment Act. This section sets out 11 complex and often very difficult to understand grounds upon which a departure application can be based. Fortunately, the CSA has produced a plain English version, in which the 11 grounds have been reduced to 10 reasons.

Possible reasons for varying the amount of child support

  1. The costs of maintaining a child are significantly affected by high costs of enabling a parent to spend time with, or communicate with, the child. A parent's costs are high if, during a child support period, they total more than 5% of the parent's adjusted taxable income for the period.
  2. The costs of maintaining a child are significantly affected by high costs associated with a child's special needs.
  3. The costs of maintaining a child are significantly affected by high costs of caring for, educating or training the child in the way both parents intended.
  4. The child support assessment is unfair because of the child's. income earning capacity, property or financial resources.
  5. The child support assessment is unfair because the payer has paid or transferred money, goods or property to the child, the payee or a third party for the benefit of the child.
  6. The costs of maintaining a child are significantly affected by the payee's high child care costs for the child (and the child is under 12 years).
  7. The parents' necessary expenses significantly affect their. capacity to support the child.
  8. The child support assessment is unfair because of the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of one or both of the parents.
  9. The parents' capacity to support the child is significantly affected by:
    1. Their legal duty to maintain another child or person
    2. Their necessary expenses in supporting another child or person they have a legal duty to maintain
    3. The high cost of enabling them to spend time with or communicate with another child or person they have a legal duty to maintain.
  10. The parents' responsibility to maintain a resident child 10. significantly reduces their capacity to support the child support child.

Lump sum payments for child support

Child support can also be paid by way of a lump sum rather than by periodic child support. Parties can agree, as part of a financial settlement between them, that a sum of money or portion of property to be paid to/transferred to the carer by the liable parent, is to be credited against future periodic child support payments. Where parents decide to enter into such an arrangement, the arrangement between them needs to be documented in either a Binding Child Support Agreement or a Terminating Child Support Agreement.

Use of child support trusts

A payer can elect to pay child support via a child support trust. Such a trust, if properly documented and administered, can result in substantial savings in income tax for the payer.

Swaab Attorneys was the highest ranking law firm and the 13th best place to work in Australia in the 2010 Business Review Weekly Best Places to Work Awards. The firm was a finalist in the 2010 BRW Client Choice Awards for client service and was named the winner in the 2009 Australasian Legal Business Employer of Choice Awards.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.