Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Simpler rules for separated families

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator Joe Ludwig, Minister for Human Services

Rules about the care of children of separated parents will be made simpler and more consistent following changes made in the 2009-10 Budget.

Separated parents will now only have to seek one determination recognising their level of care for their children. This determination will then be used by both the child support and family assistance systems.

Currently, the Family Assistance Office (Centrelink and Medicare) and the Child Support Agency use different rules to determine care levels for child support and family assistance. This creates inconsistencies and unnecessary duplication of processes and decision making between both agencies.

For example, a parent can have 42 per cent of care recognised by Centrelink for Family Tax Benefit purposes, but have 38 per cent of care recognised for child support payments, for the same child.

This can put additional strain on separated parents who have to deal with two agencies, and two different sets of rules.

Many separated parents have been frustrated by the repetition of paperwork through these agencies.

From 1 July 2010, separated parents will be able to have their initial care determination, or any update to care arrangements, made through one agency, either the Family Assistance Office or the Child Support Agency. The other agency will then simply recognise the change that has already been made.

By aligning the agencies’ rules for determining care levels, the Government aims to reduce objections and appeals which arise from the current arrangements.

The changes will also make it easier for separated parents to notify changes in their care arrangements.

The Government has listened and taken action to remove this barrier for the benefit of children and to achieve a better balance for parents.

More information on these measures is contained in the Fact Sheets available online at: FaHCSIA website