Common questions and answers
What if my circumstances change?
If any of the following change for you, please let Child Support know:
- if you enter or leave a marriage or relationship
- if you start living with the person who receives your child support payments
- if a dependent child comes into or leaves your care
- if you change your address, other contact details or employer
- if you start or stop receiving a benefit.
It could affect how much you pay. You’ll need to contact us - complete and send the Change of circumstances (IR116) form online, or you can print it out, complete it, and post it to us. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 221 221. Please let us know about any change in your circumstances within 28 days of the change.
Is there a minimum amount of child support I have to pay?
The minimum child support amount for a full year is $848 ($16.30 a week). Even if the formula calculation results in less than $848, you must still pay this minimum amount. You can use the Child support liability calculator to work out how much you’d have to pay.
How long do I have to pay child support?
You must pay child support until the child turns 19. Child support stops before this if the child marries (or begins living with another person in a civil union or de facto relationship) or supports themselves financially before turning 19, for example, if the child is in permanent employment, receives a student allowance, or benefit from Work and Income, or leaves the care of the custodian.
What if my assessment is wrong?
If you believe your assessment was based on incorrect information, contact us in writing outlining your concerns or fill out a Child support notice of objection (IR119).
We must receive the objection within 28 days from the date of the assessment. You must continue paying your child support until the issue is resolved.
What if I don't agree with the amount I have to pay?
You may have special circumstances that allow you to apply for an administrative review. Phone us on 0800 221 221 or read our booklet Helping you to understand child support reviews (IR175).
If your child support payment is assessed with the standard formula and you’ve provided us with all the correct details, you should be paying the same amount as anyone else would be in similar circumstances. Check the formula for calculating child support to be sure your assessment is based on the correct details.
If you find the assessment is based on correct information but you still think it’s unfair, you may try to reduce your child support payment by:
- estimating your income, as an alternative way of calculating your child support payments
- applying for an administrative review
- reaching a voluntary agreement with the parent / caregiver who receives the child support about how much child support you'll pay. Find out more about voluntary agreements for child support.
What if my income has dropped?
If your income has dropped by more than 15% from the amount you were assessed on, you can estimate your income, and we’ll make a new assessment. For more information on estimating your income, phone us on 0800 221 221 or read our factsheet Estimating your income (IR151).
What happens if I have split custody or I share the care of my children?
If you have split custody or shared care of your children and you don't receive a Work and Income benefit, you may be entitled to a reduction in your child support. Please phone us on 0800 221 221 for more details.
Does paying child support allow me custody or access to my child?
We don't determine custody or access issues - this is up to the parties concerned. If the parties can't agree, the Family Court can determine custody and access.
I don't have access to my child (or children) so why do I have to pay child support?
The underlying philosophy of child support is that children have a right to financial support from both parents, according to the parents' ability to pay. A parent's obligation to provide financial support is not removed by issues such as access or custody, or where the children are living or how the parent who is receiving child support is exercising their responsibility.
As a paying parent, what happens if I don't pay?
Any amount you don't pay by the due date will have a penalty added of:
- 10% of the outstanding amount, or
- $5 (whichever is the greater).
A further penalty of 2% of the total overdue amount (including penalties that have already been incurred) will be added for each month the amount is overdue.
If you fail to pay any child support by the due date, we can order all future payments to be made by your employer. The employer will be required to deduct child support from your salary or wages each payday.
We also can make automatic deductions from accident compensation payments and bank accounts to recover any overdue amounts.
What do I need to do to avoid getting into debt?
The best way to avoid getting into debt is to:
- pay the required amount on time, and
- notify us if your circumstances change in any way, eg, if your income increases or a child for whom you receive a living allowance leaves home. If we find out later that such a change has affected the amount of child support you're required to pay, we usually adjust the assessment from the date of the change. That is, the amount is backdated and you're in debt for the past period.
Chris estimates that his income will be lower for the new tax year and applies for a reduction in the amount of child support he's required to pay. A few months later, his income increases but he forgets to tell us. When we assess his higher income at the end of the year, his child support assessment for the whole of the past year increases.
If Chris had notified us when he realised his income would be higher than he originally estimated, we could have made appropriate adjustments at that time and he would have avoided getting into debt.
Inland Revenue has charged me a penalty for not paying the required amount of child support. How can I get this penalty reviewed?
By law we must apply a penalty against any child support payments that are late or less than the full amount due. However, under certain circumstances we may reduce or remove a penalty. Broadly speaking these circumstances are as follows:
- The penalty was in relation to the first payment due, and you arranged to pay the debt within three months and you kept to that arrangement.
- The penalty arose because your employer failed to deduct the payment as requested and you did all you could to sort it out with us.
- There was a reasonable cause for your late payment, ie something beyond your control such as a serious illness, accident or disaster.
- Inland Revenue Child Support gave you wrong advice. For example, they told you to pay $400 when it should have been $500.
- You made an honest oversight. For example, you may have a long history of making payments on time, overlooked that the due date for the next payment was on a weekend but paid on the next business day.
If you're applying for a penalty remission on the grounds of 3, 4 or 5, you must put your request to us in writing.
Are there any exemptions from paying child support?
Child Support can provide exemptions for paying parents in prison or in hospital for 13 weeks or more, paying parents under 16 years old and victims of sexual offences in some circumstances. If you want to apply for an exemption you need to complete a:
- Prisoner and hospital inmate exemption - application (IR105), or
- Persons under 16 years exemption - application (IR105A).
For information on exemption from payment as a victim of a sexual offence please call us on 0800 221 221. You should also read our factsheets as appropriate:
- Hospital patients (IR148)
- Prisoners (IR154)
- Paying parents under 16 (IR311)
- Victims of sexual offences (IR312).
I've paid my full year's child support, even though the year is not over. Do I continue paying the minimum $16.30 weekly payment until the year ends?
No, if your estimate is correct and you've already paid your full year's support, you don't have to pay anything more this year.
I'm afraid that if I ask my boss to deduct my child support payments he'll tell my workmates I have a child.
Your employer is bound by law to treat all matters concerning child support as totally confidential. Your employer is not permitted to discuss your personal situation.
I'm going overseas. Is there anything I should do about child support?
Before you go overseas, please contact Inland Revenue Child Support to discuss your plans and circumstances as they may significantly affect how much child support you're required to pay.
Some relevant issues are:
- your overseas income, which we take into account in making child support assessments
- whether or not you're a New Zealand citizen
- how long you'll be overseas and what your remaining ties with New Zealand are
- your contact details while overseas, which are important to us.
We have a reciprocal agreement with Australia for making child support assessments, collecting payments and enforcing payments.
Inland Revenue matches information with New Zealand Customs so that we're notified when certain parents with outstanding child support debt are travelling in and out of New Zealand.
Child support officers will use this information to try to contact the paying parent to make arrangements to repay the debt, or pursue other collection processes. If necessary, we can also take legal steps to prevent certain paying parents from subsequently leaving the country.
Paying parents who are planning to travel should contact Inland Revenue to ensure their child support obligations are up to date before travelling.
Date published: 02 Jun 2011