2.10.1 Suspension of Liability to Pay Child Support when Parents Reconcile

Context

If the Registrar is satisfied that 2 separated parents have reconciled, payment of child support will be suspended (unless the child support is payable to a non-parent carer). Where parents remain reconciled for a period of 6 months or more, the administrative assessment will end. If, however, the parents separate again within 6 months, then either parent can reinstate the assessment without having to make a new application for an administrative assessment of child support.

Act references

CSA Act section 5, section 12(5), section 150E

CSRC Act section 37A, section 38, section 38A, section 42C, section 80(1)

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Suspension of child support liability when parents reconcile

When parents with a child support case reconcile, they should notify the Registrar that they are now members of the same couple. In some cases Centrelink may advise the Registrar that the parents have reconciled.

Once the Registrar is satisfied that the parents have reconciled, the Registrar will make a determination (a 'suspension determination') that child support is not payable for a child by a liable parent to the other parent of the child. This means that child support does not accrue against the liable parent during this period (CSA Act sections 150E(1) and 150E(2)).

Reconciliation occurs if parents become members of the same couple

The Registrar will consider that parents have reconciled once satisfied that the parents have become members of the same couple (section 150E(1)). This means that they are legally married to each other and are not living separately or apart on a permanent or indefinite basis; or are living together (2.1.1) as partners on a genuine domestic basis although not legally married to each other; or are in a registered relationship and are not living separately or apart on a permanent or indefinite basis (section 5).

When the suspension determination takes effect

If the Registrar makes a suspension determination, child support is not payable from the date the Registrar determines that the parents became members of the same couple (CSA Act section 150E(2)).

Effect of the suspension determination

The suspension determination ends the effect of the child support assessment.

For example, any child of the reconciled parents (that is living with them) is able to be treated as a relevant dependent child if either of the parents has another child support case (CSA Act section 150E(6)).

Payment of child support to continue if reconciliation unsuccessful within 6 months

If the Registrar is satisfied that the parents cease to be a couple within 6 months of the start of the reconciliation, the Registrar must then make a determination that child support is again payable (except where a child support terminating event has already happened) (CSA Act sections 12(5) and 150E(3); and also see 2.10.3 on terminating events).

When the Registrar makes a determination that child support is again payable, it is payable from the day the Registrar is satisfied that the parents' reconciliation ended (CSA Act section 150E(4)).

Example: M and F have a child support case with 2 children A and B. A and B live with F, and M pays child support to F.

M and F decide to reconcile and M moves into F's home on 2 July 2008. On 5 July 2008, F and M notify the Registrar that they reconciled on 2 July 2008. The Registrar then makes a 'suspension determination' that from 2 July 2008 child support is no longer payable by M to F.

On 2 September 2008 M and F decide their reconciliation is not working and they separate. M moves out on the same day. On 10 September 2008 F notifies the Registrar that the reconciliation ended on 2 September 2008 and the Registrar confirms this with M. The Registrar then makes a determination that child support is again payable from 2 September 2008.

No child support amounts were accruing for the period while the parents were reconciled i.e. between 2 July and 1 September 2008.

Reconciliation for less than 6 months wholly in the past

A parent may advise the Registrar that they and the other parent reconciled for a period of less than 6 months in the past, but have now re-separated. If the Registrar is satisfied that the parents did reconcile on a particular date when there was a child support assessment in place, and then separated again within 6 months of their reconciliation, the Registrar will make a suspension determination in relation to the time when the parents were reconciled (provided that the date of reconciliation was after 1 July 2008).

Terminating event if parents reconcile for 6 months or more

Where parents reconcile for a period of 6 months or more, this is a child support terminating event (2.10.3). A 'terminating event' ends an administrative assessment (CSA Act sections 12(5) and 150E(2)). If the parents separate after this time, and they want child support to again be assessed, then either parent can make a new application for an administrative assessment.

Example: M and F have a child support case with 2 children A and B. A and B live with F, and M pays F child support.

M and F decide to get back together and M moves into F's home on 2 July 2008. On 5 July 2008, Centrelink notifies the Registrar that M and F reconciled on 2 July 2008. The Registrar then makes a 'suspension determination' that from 2 July 2008 child support is not payable by M to F for A and B.

On 2 January 2009 (6 months after M and F first reconciled) the administrative assessment ends as a child support terminating event has occurred on 2 January 2009.

If M and F were to separate more than 6 months after they reconciled (i.e. after their child support assessment has ended) one of them would need to make a new application if they again wanted a child support assessment.

Non-parent carers

Child support is still payable by a liable parent to a non-parent carer irrespective of the parents' reconciliation and any suspension determination made by the Registrar as a result (CSA Act section 150E(5)).

Collection of child support arrears during suspension determination

The making of a suspension determination does not of itself automatically end collection of any child support arrears by the Registrar that exist at the time of the reconciliation. The Registrar may continue to collect arrears while the suspension determination is in place.

However, parents can discuss their options regarding the collection of arrears during the suspension period with DHS. For instance, if the liability is registered for collection with the Registrar, before the suspension determination is made, a payee may make an election under CSRC Act section 38A for the Registrar to end collection of the liability and not to collect any arrears (see 5.6.1 on electing to end collection).

The payee may also elect to end the administrative assessment (2.10.2) rather than continue with the suspension period. The payee may opt to finalise arrears by making an election for the Registrar to end collection of arrears. See 5.6.1 on electing to end collection.

Review rights

DHS's internal review (objection) process allows parents to ask the Registrar to formally reconsider particular decisions made under child support legislation.

When the Registrar makes a decision to suspend an administrative assessment or a determination that child support is again payable the Registrar will amend the administrative assessment to reflect those decisions. Accordingly, the Registrar will also vary the Child Support Register to reflect the amendments made to the assessment. Either parent of a registrable maintenance liability has the right to object to the particulars varied in the Child Support Register (CSRC Act sections 37A, 42C and 80(1); and also see 4.1 for more information on objecting to decisions of the Registrar).

Last reviewed: 20 March 2017