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For individuals & families: As a parent

Common questions and answers about child support for custodians

Child support is money paid by parents who aren’t living with their children to help support those children financially. This information applies to you if you’re the parent (or other caregiver) receiving child support.

What if my circumstances change?

A change in your circumstances could affect how much child support you receive. The easiest way to let us know about changes is through your online services account. Login or register now to submit your change in circumstances.

You need to tell us:

  • if you start living with the person who pays or receives your child support payments
  • if a dependent child comes into or leaves your care
  • if you change your address or contact details
  • if you start or stop receiving a benefit.

Any of these changes can affect how much you get paid.

You can tell us by completing:

  • the Child support – change of circumstances through your online services account. Login or register now.
  • the Child support - change of circumstances online - go to "Get it done online", or
  • a Change of circumstances (IR116) form online or print it out, complete it and post it to us - go to "Forms and guides".

When and how do I get paid?

If you're on a benefit you'll only receive child support where the amount collected from the paying parent is more than the benefit entitlement. If this is the case you'll receive the difference between the two amounts on the 7th of the month following the month in which the payment was received.

If you’re not on a benefit you’ll get all the child support collected from the paying parent (not including penalties). Payments received from the paying parent by the due date are direct credited to your bank account on the 7th of the following month. You only receive the amount collected by us for a particular month.

We won’t be able to pay you until the overdue amount has been paid by the paying parent if the paying parent:

  • pays late, or
  • doesn't pay at all.

I've applied for child support. When can I expect to receive my first payment?

Approximately eight weeks after we receive your application.

How can I check what money to expect and when it will be paid?

If you have an online services account, you can check your accounts and balances and update your bank account details at any time. Login or register now. Alternatively, you can use our 0800 self-service line to find out how much child support you’ll receive and the date that the money will be paid into your bank account.

If you use the 0800 self-service line for personal information, such as account balances, you’ll need a personal identification number (PIN). You can get a PIN by calling 0800 257 777 and following the step-by-step instructions.

What happens if a paying parent doesn't pay?

If the paying parent doesn’t pay child support when it’s due, then you won’t receive any payments.

If a paying parent doesn’t pay by the due date, we can order that all future payments must be made by the paying person's employer. The employer will be required to deduct child support from the paying person's salary or wages each payday.

We can make automatic deductions from accident compensation payments and bank accounts to recover any overdue amounts.

When can I get a late payment made by the paying parent?

Extra payments to you for child support received late are made on the 14th, 20th and 28th of every month.

I've been expecting a child support payment and haven't received anything yet. Where is it?

There are several possible reasons why you may be waiting for a payment of child support:

  • We’re only able to pay you money that the paying parent has paid to us. If we receive no payments, then we can’t pay any money on to you.
  • If you’re receiving a benefit at the sole parent rate, any money from the paying parent goes first towards the cost of the benefit paid to you. If the paying parent is assessed to pay more than the amount of the benefit paid to you in a month, then you receive the excess (ie the difference between the benefit and the child support payment).
  • There is a delay in your payment for each month as it goes through the various stages of payment. For example, the paying parent must make your payment for April to Inland Revenue Child Support by 20 May, then Child Support pays it to you on or about 7 June.

I used to receive more child support than this. Why has the amount I receive changed?

The amount may have changed because of a change in one of the three parts that we use in the formula to assess the amount of child support to pay:

  1. Paying parent's income: If the paying parent's income drops by more than 15% of the income that we based our assessment on, then the paying parent may apply for a reassessment based on his or her estimated income for the current year.
  2. Living allowance: The living allowance is based on how many dependants (a partner and/or children) are living with the paying parent. It reduces the amount of child support that the paying parent must pay; the more dependants a paying parent has, the higher the living allowance and so the lower the assessment will be. Therefore if a paying parent notifies us of a new dependent person living with him or her, the amount of child support the paying parent is required to pay usually decreases.
  3. Child support percentage: The child support percentage is based on the number of children for whom the paying parent must pay child support. Your child support payments will decrease if one or more of these children no longer qualifies for child support, eg, because they leave your care or become financially independent.

Any part of the assessment may also be changed by an administrative review, exemption review or Commissioner-initiated review decision or court order. You should receive a copy of any decision or order that alters the formula.

I have remarried. Will this alter the child support assessment that my former husband or wife has to pay?

No. Child support assessments won't be affected by your personal circumstances, even if you have your own income and/or are living with a new partner.

What is Inland Revenue doing about collecting my money from the paying parent?

If the paying parent isn’t paying voluntarily then it‘s our job to collect the money for you. Sometimes paying parents don’t pay voluntarily and in these cases the law gives us powers to enforce collection.

We can make deductions from the paying parent's salary, wages or bank account. If these options are unsuccessful then we can consider several forms of legal action. Normally, before taking legal action, we would consult you as the parent receiving child support.

Inland Revenue Child Support can give you some general information about what we’re doing and what we believe the prospects of future payments are. However, we’re restricted from giving many of the details you might like, because of the risk of breaching the paying parent's privacy.

Why do I owe Inland Revenue money?

Sometimes you can receive too much child support. This can happen because:

  • a paying parents assessment has changed
  • your circumstances changed and you get overpaid, for example, a child left your care but you continued to get child support payments for them.

What happens if I’m overpaid?

Overpaid child support has to be repaid to us. However we recognise that this could cause difficulties where you received the money in good faith and therefore we’re open to discuss repayment arrangements with you. If you’re still entitled to receive ongoing payments, we’ll usually arrange with you to reduce those payments by an agreed amount until the debt is recovered.

If you were no longer entitled to receive child support at the time of overpayment, different rules and options apply. Please contact us to discuss them.

What if I can’t pay the money back?

In some situations, we can write the debt off. This depends on:

  • whether you’re still entitled to child support
  • how much the debt is
  • your current financial situation.

Phone us and we can discuss the best option for you.

I think the paying parent should be paying a lot more. How can I get the payments increased?

We use a formula set by legislation to work out how much child support a paying parent needs to pay. We’re not able to change the way we calculate it. As a result, paying parents with similar income and living circumstances are required to pay similar amounts.

However, if you believe that special circumstances in your case make the standard assessment unfair, then you can apply for an administrative review or an exemption review depending on the circumstances.

How does living in Australia affect my child support entitlement?

There is a reciprocal agreement with Australia that explains how child support is administered when one parent lives in Australia and one lives in New Zealand.

 

 


Date published: 26 Sep 2010

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