Calculating Care in Your Child Support Assessment

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Why is the percentage of care important when assessing child support?

One of the main components used to calculate your child support assessment is your and the other parents’ care percentages for your children.  This is a rough measure of the amount of care each parent has for each of their children.

What is Care and how is it worked out?

What is Care and how is it worked out?

Care is not legally defined and is given its ordinary meaning. The most common method Services Australia: Child Support (CSA) uses to work out care is by working out the number of nights a child spends with each parent. They will then divide this figure by 365 days in a year to arrive at a percentage.

There are many cases where this may not fairly reflect the level of care provided by each parent. For example, where one parent has no overnight time, but has substantial day time contact with their children through the week. Another example might be where parents are separated under the same roof.

Care percentage ranges

When you call CSA to report changes to care, this will not necessarily impact on the amount of child support you pay. Care will only impact on the amount of child support to be paid where the pattern of care moves into a different care percentage range.

There are five ranges of care used by CSA in calculating child support assessments:

Name Percentage of Care Number of Nights
Below Regular 0 to less than 14% 0 to 51
Regular 14% to less than 35% 52 to 127
Shared 35% to 65% 128 to 237
Primary More than 65% to 86% 238 to 313
Above Primary More than 85% to 100% 314 to 365

Parenting Plans and Court Orders

CSA can use a parenting plan or court order (including a DVO or overseas parenting order) as evidence of a care arrangement. However, if the plan or court order is not being followed, usually CSA will base any care decision on the care that is actually happening not what care should be happening under an agreement.

Disputed Care Arrangements

Disputed Care Arrangements

If you and the other parenting are following a parenting plan or court order CSA can make a decision that your care remain as per what is in your agreement or court order where you are taking action to enforce the arrangement.

Taking action to enforce a parenting agreement can include:

Filing a court application to enforce orders;

  • Contacting Police;
  • Negotiating with the other part to ensure compliance;
  • Making an appointment or arranging Family Dispute Resolution (FDR);
  • Seeking legal advice.

You should contact child support if there has been a unilateral change to care arrangements.

If you are successful, child support can apply the care in a court order for an interim period of up to 26 weeks following the change of care day or 52 weeks following the making of the court order, whichever is later. For a parenting plan the period is up to 14 weeks from the date the person with increased care started taking action to participate in family dispute resolution or up to 26 weeks from the change of care date.

There may be circumstances where this interim period does not apply, including where there has been a reduction of care with one parent to protect a child from abuse or family violence.

Challenging care decisions

If you do not agree with a decision made about care you can lodge an internal review known as an objection within 28 days.

If you do not agree with the objection decision, you then may appeal twice to the Administrative Appeal Tribunal about a care decision. The time limit for each review is 28 days following you receiving the decision you intend to review.

You can provide additional evidence at each separate review.

Challenging care decisions
Date of effect of care change

Date of effect of care change

You must make sure that you notify CSA of any change to care within 28 days. CSA may obtain this information from other sources, for example if you have updated your level of care for Centrelink purposes this information will also be provided to CSA.

If you do not notify the CSA within 28 days then:

  • for the parent whose care has increased the assessment will be amended for that parent with the new percentage of care from the date CSA was notified;
  • for the parent whose care has decreased the assessment will be amended for that parent from the date the change of care occurred.

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