9.3 The child support scheme was established in 1988 to enforce children’s rights to be supported by both their parents.[1] Before this, parents could obtain child support only through agreements or court orders. The legislative basis of the scheme is the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth)and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth). The CSA administers these Acts.

9.4 Both parents of a child may apply for child support, and in certain circumstances non-parent carers may also be eligible for child support.[2] The CSA uses a legislative formula to assess how much child support a parent should pay.[3] The assessment takes into account both parents’ income, the care arrangements, and the number of dependent children, including children from other relationships. Payees may choose to collect child support privately, or for the CSA to collect and transfer child support payments.

9.5 The child support scheme interacts with the family law system. Parenting arrangements are the basis of a party’s child support eligibility or liability, and also affect the amount of the child support assessment. In this way, child support law governs the child support consequences of decisions made in the family law context. It is the family law system—not the child support system—which is set up to address family violence issues in the resolution of disputes between parents about parenting arrangements.

9.6 The child support scheme also interacts with family assistance system—in particular, through the requirement on Family Tax Benefit (FTB) recipients to obtain child support. The interaction between child support and family assistance is discussed below, and is the primary theme of Chapter 11.

9.7 The CSA is part of the Department of Human Services (DHS). The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is responsible for ‘the development, implementation and monitoring of child support policy’.[4]

[1] Commonwealth, Parliamentary Debates, Senate, 17 February 1988, 165 (P Walsh—Minister for Finance).

[2] The child support eligibility of non-parent carers is discussed in Ch 10.

[3] See Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) pt 5.

[4] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Overview <www.fahcsia.gov.au> at 21 July 2011.