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Changes in care levels or other circumstances

The level of care forms an integral part of the formula assessment. For this reason, it is important to tell the Department of Human Services – Child Support about any changes to care arrangements as soon as possible. This is one instance where either Centrelink or Child Support can be notified and either can make care decisions which can affect both Family Tax Benefit (A) and the rate of child support.

DHS-Child Support or Centrelink will contact the other party to confirm the level of care. If there is a dispute about care levels, the parties may be asked to provide further information before the Department makes a decision. Usually the Department must make a decision based on the actual level of care that each parent or carer is providing for the child/ren.

Sometimes parents or carers have a written agreement, parenting plan or court order which sets out the care arrangements for the children. The level of care may initially reflect these written arrangements. However, it may be that circumstances change and the actual care arrangement is different to the written document. If parents or carers do not agree about the level of care that each is providing for the children the Department will need to make a care decision to reflect the actual care arrangement for the children.

Sometimes in these circumstances one parent is taking steps to enforce or change the written care arrangement. For example, s/he may be arranging mediation to renegotiate the care arrangements. Or s/he may have filed a court application seeking to enforce parenting orders made in a family law court. In these circumstances the Department can make an interim care decision to use the care level detailed in the written document for a period of 14 weeks (and sometimes up to 26 weeks) in the expectation that the care dispute will be resolved by mediation or through court proceedings. If the dispute is not resolved, the Department must eventually make a decision to reflect the actual care arrangement for the children.

If Centrelink makes a care decision, an appeal can be lodged with an authorised review officer (ARO). These appeals should be lodged within 13 weeks to ensure that the appeal decision can be backdated. There is a further right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which should also be lodged within 13 weeks.

If DHS-Child Support made the care decision, an objection can be lodged within 28 days. Unlike most objections, an objection in relation to a care decision can be made by telephone to DHS-Child Support (131 272). It does not have to be in writing. The objection decision can be appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if either party is not satisfied with the objection decision. An appeal to the AAT must be lodged within 28 days.

A further appeal (i.e. a second level review) can be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to care decisions.

Legal advice can be sought regarding objection and appeal rights by telephoning the Child Support Help Line on 8111 5576.

The table that converts the number of nights of care into the percentage of a child’s costs is below.

Child Support Care and Cost Percentage Table

Nights per year Department of Human Services terminology


Percentage of costs met through care
0-51 Less than Regular Care = 0%
52-127 Regular Care = 24%
128-237 Shared Care = 25-75% (sliding scale)
238-313 Primary Care = 76%
314-365 Greater than Primary Care = 100%
Changes in care levels or other circumstances  :  Last Revised: Thu Jun 25th 2015
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.