Latest Family Law Insights

What Does Child Support Cover?

First published March 4th, 2022

When a couple separates or is divorced, many parents ask us what does child support cover? There are many financial responsibilities for the children that continue to be split between both parents. Even if you have never lived together or had any kind of romantic relationship with your partner — you are still legally considered “the other parent”.

There are many ways to ensure that your children continue living comfortably after your separation or divorce. One way is with child support, which applies regardless of whether the parents are married, in a de facto relationship, or even if the parents have never had a relationship.

How is The Amount of Child Support Determined?

When parents are asking what does child support cover and how support is determined there is a certain set of guidelines Child Support Agency uses. The Child Support Agency(CSA) is a part of the Australian Department of Human Services and is responsible for child support assessments. When a parent applies for child support via the CSA, they use a complex formula and consider many factors to determine how much child support is to be paid.

For example;

  • How many children are in the family
  • The age of each child
  • The income of the parent paying child support and the custodial parent
  • What the percentage of care each parent is providing for each child
  • In the case of stepchildren or adopted children, a court order is required to establish legal status.

Which Expenses Are Typically Covered by Child Support Payments?

What Does Child Support Cover in Australia

Child support is a legal obligation that requires all parents, including same-sex parents to financially assist in their child’s “normal” expenses. Child support covers expenses such as:

  • Food
  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Housing costs (rent or mortgage repayments)
  • Clothing
  • Tuition fees

When getting acquainted with the particulars of child support, knowing when it is appropriate to use funds can be confusing. The above list is just a guideline, parents may utilise this money for general expenses such as mortgage or rent payments and car maintenance that don’t exclusively involve raising children but are not a misuse of child support either way.

What Does Child Support Cover in The Way of Medical Costs or School Tuition

Child support is a financial obligation of the parent receiving it to help cover their children’s education and well-being. School fees, uniforms and school excursions are covered by child support.

There are some special circumstances where a change in the overall child support assessment can be made, such as an unusual amount of medical expenses incurred by either party. The recipient will need to apply to Child Support Agency for a payment variation.

The CSA will review the case; they’ll seek detailed input from both parties before deciding whether or not there’s enough evidence for them to make any changes on how much child support is to be paid.

Extracurricular activities like sports teams or clubs can also use these funds if they’re needed on an annual basis. The payer does not have any legal duty to pay for extracurricular activities but can be asked to contribute financially as a parent’s normal childcare responsibilities.

Child support agreements are often entered into between both parents and may include an option for extra expenses to be paid by the paying parent. These “non-periodic” payments can help cover any additional costs associated with raising a child.

What is Not Typically Covered by Child Support Payments?

Other questions parents often ask in addition to what does child support cover is — what is not covered?

There are certain costs associated with raising a child that is not covered by child support.

If you are separating you need to make sure you have all your financial questions answered to make sure you’re covering all your child’s expenses. The child support payment does not cover expenses such as;

  • Private health insurance
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Private schooling
  • The special needs of a child can sometimes lead to additional costs that are not covered

What if The Other Parent Doesn’t Pay The Child Support

Another important question you may need to ask yourself on what does child support cover if a parent is not paying the monthly child maintenance payments. If you are not receiving any payments from the other parent the Child Support Agency will make up the difference so you are not left without any income support.

The Child Support Agency will take steps to retrieve any unpaid debts from parents who owe child support. When a parent fails in their responsibility, an assessment is placed on that individual and if there’s no payment made after 30 days, then they’re considered delinquent with respect to child care payments, and the consequences could be severe.

Additionally, if a parent is more than 30 days late in making their payments, the Child Support Agency may apply an interest penalty on accrued debts. This does not go to the recipient; it goes to the Australian Government and helps cover some costs associated with supporting children throughout Australia.

Non-payments for child support are a serious issue in Australia. If the parent does not pay financial support or tries to diminish their income so that they don’t owe anything more than is necessary if requested, the Child Support Agency will investigate the circumstances surrounding them.

Can Child Support be Increased or Decreased?

The best way to deal with a decrease in income is by seeking assistance through temporary modifications. The parent may also need support if they cannot find another job. Certain circumstances could cause an even bigger issue, like being disabled or incarcerated. You must keep track of what has happened so there aren’t any miscalculations in your payments.

If one parent experiences an increase in income, the other may petition for increased child support payments. This is done to make sure the children’s standard of living will remain equivalent to what it would have been had the parents remained together.

Can I Stop Paying Child Support if My Child Turns 18?

You may be asked to pay child support after the age of 18 or when your children finish high school. Specific circumstances under federal law enforce a parent’s duty to provide financial assistance for their adult offspring. Child support is administered on an individual basis, and each case depends upon its own set of circumstances.

Read our article At What Age Does Child Support Stop? to learn more about adult child maintenance.

What if You Think Your Child Support Assessment is Unfair

One of the most common avenues to appeal a child support assessment is through filing a review with the Child Support Agency.

One of the more common reasons for an objection is errors in calculating income or care. A parent may also believe their child’s circumstances require special consideration and file a petition to review them against the original assessment.

If you still have any questions on what does child support cover please contact one of our friendly child support lawyers on (03) 9070 9839 or email

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does the Income of My New Partner Affect the Amount of Child Support I Pay or Receive?

Based on your new partner’s income, there is no change in the amount of child support you pay or receive. Child Support is based only on each parent’s earnings, not their spouse’s income.

What Is the Maintenance Obligation of a Father Who Doesn’t See His Child?

Child support is mandatory in Australia. You have a duty as the child’s parent to pay child support, whether or not you see your children.

How Can Divorced Parents Come to a Fair Agreement on Child Support?

Child support is meant to cover all types of expenses and it’s generally about fair if the cost/care split matches up with what you pay. For example, in a situation where one parent has 75% care for their children they will receive 75% of the estimated costs of child care based on your specific circumstances.

It’s important to note, that parents do not have to apply for a child support assessment from the Child Support Agency. Parents may wish to forgo assessment by the CSA and instead enter into a private formal Child Support Agreement or an informal Child Support Agreement.

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Harry graduated from La Trobe University in 2016 and has worked exclusively in family law.