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Communtity Law Manual | Parents, guardians & caregivers | How much child support will be paid

Child support

How much child support will be paid

How is the amount of child support calculated?

Child Support Act 1991, ss 29–31, 36A, Schedule 3

If you’ve been assessed by Inland Revenue as having to pay child support, Inland Revenue calculates the specific amount you’ll have to pay using what’s called a “formula assessment”. (If you have to pay child support you’re called the “liable parent”, while the other parent is called the “receiving carer”.)

The formula begins with your “child support percentage”, which is the difference between:

  • your “income percentage” (your proportion of the combined incomes of you and other parent), and
  • your “care cost percentage” (the proportion of the costs of raising the children that the child support scheme sees you as meeting through providing direct care).

Your child support percentage is then multiplied by a cost figure for each child taken from Inland Revenue’s official “Child Expenditure Table”. The result is how much you’ll have to pay, unless it’s below the minimum child support amount, and unless the “multi-group cap” applies in your case and would reduce the amount (those two exceptions are explained below: see “Is there a minimum and a maximum amount of child support payable?”).

Your “income percentage” takes into account the costs of supporting yourself (a “living allowance”), the costs of raising any children you with your current partner (a “dependent child allowance”), and the costs of raising any other children from another ex-partner for whom you have to pay child support (a “multi-group allowance”). This is explained in more detail above (see “Working out the parents’ incomes and comparing them”).

Is there a minimum and a maximum amount of child support payable?

Child Support Act 1991, ss 32, 72

Regardless of what your assessed child support amount is, there’s a minimum you’ll have to pay – so if your assessed amount is less than the minimum, the assessed amount will simply be increased up to the minimum. The minimum amount changes each year in line with inflation.

Note: The minimum amount for voluntary agreements is $10 a week (see “Voluntary agreements” below).

If you’ve had children with more than one ex-partner and will have to pay child support for all of them, IRD will apply what’s called a “multi-group cap” – that is, a limit on the total amount of child support you can be required to pay for all these children. The purpose of the cap is to make sure you don’t have to pay more in total than you would if all these children were living together in the same house. If you have children with more than one ex-partner, then in the terms used in the child support scheme you have more than one “child support group”.

Child Support Act 1991, s 31

There’s no cap or limit on child support if you have only one “child support group”.

Estimating your income if it has changed

Child Support Act 1991, ss 35(3)-(4), 40AA-45

For child support purposes your taxable income is assessed on the basis of the previous January-December calendar year if you’re a wage or salary earner, and in other cases on the basis of the tax year (April to March) before the last tax year. However, if you expect your current income to be at least 15% less than your income from that earlier calendar or tax year, you can apply to IRD to allow you to estimate your income for the current year.

If your income changes more than once in a year, you can apply again for a different estimate to be used. However, IRD won’t let you do this if you’ve already applied within the last three months and if your proposed new estimated annual amount would change the existing estimate by only $500 or less.

Note: Under the child support laws which came into force from April 2015, both parents’ incomes are relevant to whether child support will have to be paid and how much. Either parent, not just the liable parent, can now ask Inland Revenue for their income to be estimated.

How often will I have to make child support payments?

Child Support Act 1991, ss 108–111

Child support is paid by the liable parent to Inland Revenue in monthly amounts, and IRD passes those payments on to the other parent, also in monthly payments.

However, either parent can apply to the Family Court for an order for the liable parent to pay child support in a lump sum, rather than regular amounts.

Next Section | Voluntary agreements
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