Centrelink and the Family Assistance Office are key stakeholders in the Child Support Scheme. One of the major reasons that the Child Support Scheme was introduced was to reduce the burden on the welfare system, and to ensure that parents were responsible for the financial support of their children in the first instance.
A person must have at least 35% care of a child to be eligible to receive a payment of Family Tax Benefit Part (A). The payment is individually calculated to suit the care arrangements for each child.
Maintenance Action Test
Any parent who is eligible to receive more than the base rate of FTB (A), is required to ‘take reasonable maintenance action’ to obtain child support payments from the other parent. Taking reasonable maintenance action includes obtaining legal assistance to establish parentage to allow an application for child support to proceed. A parent has 13 weeks to take this action before their FTB (A) can be reduced to the minimum rate.
Legal assistance can be obtained from the Child Support Help Line on (08) 8111 5576.
Exemption from taking Maintenance Action
Some parents may be eligible to obtain an exemption from taking maintenance action for the following reasons:
- Fear of violence
- Risk of harmful or disruptive effects
- Exceptional cultural circumstances
- Father of child unknown
- Identity of father cannot be proven despite legal assistance
An appointment should be made with a Centrelink social worker to discuss obtaining an exemption on these grounds. The social worker will make a decision based on his or her professional assessment. A parent may be asked to provide evidence in support of a claim for an exemption.
Calculation of Family Tax Benefit Part (A)
The rate of FTB(A) is affected by
- household income;
- the amount of care provided; and
- the amount of child support that is paid or received.
The rate of FTB(A) can also be affected by the way that the child support payments are collected, either by
- private collection; or
- DHS-Child Support collection.
Collection by Private Arrangement
If a payee opts to collect payments of child support privately, Centrelink will assume that s/he is receiving the full amount that s/he is entitled to receive under the assessment, and calculate the rate of FTB (A) accordingly.
If child support payments are not made, or are not made in full, a payee can ask the Department of Human Services - Child Support to collect child support on his/her behalf.
Collection by the Department of Human Services - Child Support
If DHS-Child Support collects the payments of child support, Centrelink will be notified of all payments received. If payments are not being made, the payee can ask Centrelink to calculate the rate of FTB (A) based on the amount of child support that has actually been received (known as the ‘disbursement method’), rather than on the amount they are entitled to receive (known as the ‘entitlement method’).
It is recommended that payees discuss these issues with Centrelink to achieve the best outcome for them.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.