The Child Support Program is part of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services. Centrelink and Medicare are also part of the Department of Human Services. The Child Support Program administers the Child Support legislation, which is made up of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) and the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth).
Child Support Assessments
The Department of Human Services - Child Support (DHS-Child Support) processes applications for child support, creates assessments of child support based on the legislative formula or a child support agreement, and manages a variety of administrative remedies which are available to customers under the legislation. The most common of these remedies include seeking a change to the level of care recorded in the assessment, lodging an Estimate of Income and seeking a Change to the Assessment in Special Circumstances.
The formula assessment relies on having accurate information about parents’ incomes and care arrangements. For this reason, it is important that parents lodge their tax returns on time and provide DHS-Child Support with accurate information about the care of the children.
It is also important to notify DHS-Child Support of any other change in circumstances as soon as possible. These could include the birth of a relevant dependent child, a change in the care arrangements for a child or a change in employment. Such changes may have a direct impact on the child support assessment, or may lead to taking other steps such as lodging an Estimate of Income or an application to Change the Assessment in Special Circumstances.
Collection and Enforcement of Child Support Payments
If necessary, DHS-Child Support can collect payments of child support or maintenance from payers, and transfer these payments to payees. The Department has a range of powers to enforce collection of child support debts if they are not paid voluntarily. These powers include the ability to:
- collect payments directly from a payer’s employer;
- intercept tax refunds due to a payer who has a child support debt;
- withdraw funds from a payer’s bank account (where it can be identified);
- collect a limited amount from Centrelink benefits; and
- issue a Departure Prohibition Order to prevent a payer who has a child support debt from leaving Australia until s/he enters into a payment arrangement.
Relationship with Centrelink
Child Support, Centrelink and the Family Assistance Office share information about the amount of child support calculated in an assessment, and about the level of care each person provides for the children. If DHS-Child Support is collecting the payments, information can also be provided to Centrelink about the actual amount of child support paid or received.
Child support payments can affect Family Tax Benefit (A) entitlements. A person must have at least 35% care of a child to be eligible to receive a payment of FTB (A) for a child.
NB: Centrelink and DHS-Child Support do not automatically share information about parents’ incomes. Therefore, if there are changes in a parent’s income or if a payer becomes unemployed, it is important to contact DHS-Child Support to discuss the options for changing the child support assessment.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.