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Family law

Child support

Departures from the formula assessment

Child Support Act 1991, ss 96A, 96B, 96C, 96F, 104, 105

What’s a Departure Order?

Either parent, can apply for child support to be worked out on a different basis from the standard formula assessment. This is called applying for a “departure” from the formula assessment; when the decision is made by the Family Court it’s called a “Departure Order”.

Who do I apply to if I want a departure decision?

In general, you must apply first to Inland Revenue. You can apply to the Family Court for a departure order only if:

  • Inland Revenue has already made a decision on your application for a departure from the formula assessment, or has refused to make a decision because it thinks the issues are too complex and should be left to the Family Court, or
  • either or both parents are already involved in another case that’s going to be heard by the Family Court, and it’s appropriate for the departure application to be heard along with that other case.

What are the reasons for departing from the formula assessment?

Inland Revenue or the Family Court, depending on who you’ve applied to, can approve your application for a departure decision if it’s satisfied that:

  • one or more of the reasons for a departure have been made out (see below), and
  • departing from the formula assessment would be “just and equitable” for the children and both parents, and would be “otherwise proper”.

These are the specific reasons for departing from a formula assessment:

  • Reduced financial capacity – Your ability to financially support the child is significantly reduced because of any of the following special circumstances:
    • you’re responsible for supporting another child or person, or
    • you’re responsible for supporting another child or person who has special needs, or
    • commitments that are necessary for you to support yourself or to support any other child or person you’re responsible for.
  • Higher costs of care – The costs of raising the child are significantly affected by any of the following special circumstances:
    • you’re having to pay particularly high costs in order to have contact with the child, or to enable the other parent to have contact with them, or
    • the child has special needs, or
    • the child is being cared for, educated or trained in a particular way that’s expected by either you or the other parent.
  • Special cases involving money or property – The formula assessment would mean that you have to pay an “unjust and inequitable” amount of child support because of special circumstances involving:
    • the income, earning capacity, property or financial resources of either you, the other parent or the child, or
    • any money or property that you’ve previously made or transferred to the child, or to the other parent or another person for the child’s benefit, or
    • the other parent continuing to live in the family home after the two of you separated, if you own or co-own the home.
  • Re-establishment costs – The formula assessment should be departed from to recognise that, at some time within the three years after you separated from the other parent, you earned additional income to meet the costs of re-establishing yourself and any of your dependents after the separation.

Did this answer your question?

Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet, here. This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Family Court

The Family Court website covers many topics discussed in this chapter, including how the family court works, care of children, adoption and paternity.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/family

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens with children when parents separate.

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/what-happens-to-your-children-when-you-part

Inland Revenue

Inland Revenue’s Child Support webpage has a wide range of forms and guides for parents and caregivers.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/child-support
Phone: 0800 221 221

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services (ANZASCS)

The ANZASCS website has information about supervised contact and lists contact details for approved providers of supervised contact services.

Website: www.anzascs.org.nz

Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are many kinds of “alternative dispute resolution” that, depending on your personal situation, may be cheaper and more successful than going to the Family Court. These include counselling, mediation and negotiation. The following list is not exhaustive:

Resolution Institute: www.resolution.institute
Website: www.aminz.org.nz
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ): www.fdrc.co.nz
FairWay: www.fairwayresolution.com
Family Works: www.familyworkscentral.org.nz

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

Oranga Tamariki’s website has information about the adoption process.

Website: www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/adoption/adopting-in-nz
Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

The DIA website has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/adoption-and-fostering/finding-your-birth-parents

Registering your child’s birth

The Smartstart website allows you to register your baby’s birth online.

Website: www.smartstart.services.govt.nz/register-my-baby

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