What is child support?
This section explains how child support works and what it aims to achieve, as well as outlining some related areas that child support does not deal with.
The aims of child support
Inland Revenue Child Support administers the child support scheme, which is designed to collect money from parents not living with their children to help financially support them when:
- a couple who have children split up, or
- two people have children and aren't living together.
The child support scheme operates under the Child Support Act 1991. This legislation aims to ensure that:
- parents take financial responsibility for their children when marriages and relationships end
- financial contributions from paying parents help to offset the cost of benefits, like sole parent support, which support custodians and children.
Birth information matching
We match birth information with the Department of Internal Affairs to establish IRD numbers of dependent and qualifying children for child support purposes.
Birth information is used as an alternative to requesting birth certificates from parents or carers.
This information matching is carried out under the authority of, and is consistent with, Part 10 of the Privacy Act 1993 and is monitored by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
How does child support work?
The person caring for the child generally applies for child support. We call this person the custodian. Custodians can sometimes be people other than parents - like grandparents or a member of the whanau, or Child Youth and Family if they have the care of the child. In these cases both parents may pay child support.
We use a standard formula to calculate how much child support must be paid by the paying parent. A paying parent is the parent who does not care for the child on an ongoing basis.
The standard formula uses a process which works out the paying parent's taxable income, takes away a set living allowance (the amount of which depends on their living arrangements - such as if they have a partner and how many children live with them), and multiplies the result by a percentage based on the number of children the paying parent pays child support for.
We then divide the annual amount into monthly amounts. We let the:
- the paying parent know how much they need to pay, and
- the custodian know how much they will receive.
Inland Revenue Child Support collects payments from the paying parent and passes them on to:
- the custodian to assist with care of the child, or
- the government, if the custodian is receiving a sole parent benefit like sole parent support.
To qualify for child support, the child must be:
- under 19 years of age
- a New Zealand citizen or "ordinary resident" in New Zealand
- not married or in a de facto relationship
- financially dependent, that is, not working more than 30 hours a week on average, or receiving a benefit or student allowance.
The paying parent must pay until their child turns 19. It will stop before this if the child starts:
- living with them full time
- work full time (30 hours a week or more)
- receiving a benefit or student allowance
- living in a de facto relationship or marries.
What are not matters for Child Support?
Child Support does not:
- decide on custody of children, on access to children, nor who is a legal parent. For help with these matters, contact your lawyer, community law centre, local Family Court, or citizens advice bureau.
- deal directly with children. Payments are made to the custodians.
Also, child support is not Working for Families Tax Credits.
Date published: 09 Aug 2013