If you’re struggling to pay your child support the worst thing to do is ignore it.

The Child Support Agency (CSA) – who administers Australia’s Child Support Scheme – will do its best to help you as long as you contact them early. They’ll work with you to manage your child support payments for the benefit of your children.

Download PDF

4 steps to take if you’re struggling to pay child support


Work out what you can afford to pay

If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe, the first thing to do is to work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. How to work out what you can afford to pay.

If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your creditor straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.

If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 straight away for advice.


If your circumstances have changed, contact the Child Support Agency (CSA)

If your circumstances have changed, tell the CSA immediately, or within 14 days at the latest.

If you lose your job or your income is reduced, this may reduce your child support obligations. By keeping the CSA informed, you’ll be paying (or receiving) the correct amount of child support. The CSA will advise the other parent if your payment obligations change as a result of any changes to your income.

Details about child support and how to contact the Child Support Agency are here.


  • Advise the CSA of any changes to income within 14 days of the event that led to the change in income
  • Lodge your tax return every year to ensure you’re paying the right amount for child support


Let the CSA know you’re behind with your payments

If you’re in arrears with your child support payments, let the CSA know so you can make an arrangement to repay them. The agency may allow you to clear the arrears over an extended period of time whereby you pay a certain amount per fortnight on top of what you are already paying.

If your circumstances have changed and your income has dropped, you can also request that the CSA use an estimated adjusted taxable income to calculate your child support payment (see below).

  Adjusting your taxable income

If your circumstances have changed and your income has fallen, you can request that the CSA use an estimated adjusted taxable income to calculate your child support payment, if:

  • your child support payments are based on a tax return or advice to CSA of your adjusted taxable income for the year
  • your current adjusted taxable income is at least 15% lower than the income used in the assessment
  • you lodged an estimate for the current period more than two months previously because of changed circumstances, and the new estimate is for a different amount.

You may not be able to request that the CSA use an estimate of your adjusted taxable income for any part of your assessment period that is based on:

  • an agreement between yourself and the other parent
  • a determination made under the change of assessment process
  • a court order.

If you’re in this situation, contact us on 1800 007 007.


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.

What happens if?

I don’t pay child support

If you don’t pay your child support, the CSA can collect it directly from your wages or Centrelink payment without a court order. They can also withhold your tax refund or use other standard ways to enforce a debt. The CSA can also apply for a Departure Prohibition Order preventing you from leaving Australia if you have an unpaid child support debt.

If you’re in this situation, contact one of our financial counsellors on 1800 007 007

I don't lodge a tax return

If you haven’t lodged a tax return for two years and the CSA can’t determine your income, it will use a default income – which is at least two thirds of a current annual weekly earnings figure published yearly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

I lodge a late tax return

If you lodge your tax return late and are earning less then previously, the CSA may not be able to backdate reduced payments unless there are exceptional circumstances.

I go bankrupt

Child support payments and arrears are not wiped out by bankruptcy.

If you can’t pay your required child support and are considering going bankrupt, call us on 1800 007 007.​