188.8.131.52 Abducted, Absent or Missing Child
If a person (1.1.P.80) takes a child away from the person who is legally responsible (1.1.L.20) for that child, or if a child leaves care or refuses to return to care, without the consent of the person who is legally responsible for them, the child can be considered to be an abducted, absent or missing child.
Explanation: The child may have been removed from the home without their consent by a third party, or may have left or refuses to return of their own volition but be under age and living with someone who does not have legal responsibility for them, without their parent/carer's consent. The child's whereabouts may also be unknown.
This topic explains where payment of FTB, that is dependent on the provision of care for a child, may be continued during a qualifying period (1.1.Q.10) where a child has been abducted, or is absent without consent or missing, depending on whether:
- the individual is legally responsible for the child, and
- there is a parental relationship between the abductor and the child, and
- there is a family law order (1.1.F.10) or registered parenting plan (1.1.P.21) in force for that child, and
- the individual has taken reasonable steps to recover care of the child.
Situations where eligibility may be extended during the qualifying period
Eligibility for FTB may be extended for the original carer for any of the following situations, provided they are taking reasonable steps to regain care of the child:
- the child is missing for any reason.
- Example: The child is abducted.
- a family law order or registered parenting plan does not exist, and the child is living with another person who is not a parent.
- Example: The child has run away from the family home.
- a family law order or registered parenting plan is not being complied with, and the child refuses to return to the other parent.
- Example: The child would prefer to stay with one parent and refuses to be in the care of the other parent.
Special circumstances where the qualifying period does not apply
If a child ceases to be in a person's care without their consent, Centrelink has the discretion to decide that the child immediately ceases to be an FTB child or regular care child of the person if there are special circumstances which support that outcome (1.1.Q.10).
An individual reporting that their child has been abducted, is absent without consent or missing should be referred to the police and the Family Court for immediate assistance and advice. A social worker may also be able to offer support to the individual.
Continuation of FTB instalments
FTB can continue to be paid for up to 14 weeks if the individual is taking reasonable steps to have the child returned to their care.
Reasonable steps include:
- notifying the police that the child is missing or has been taken from care without consent, or
- taking out a recovery order through the court.
Individuals who claim either past period or instalment payments or both must provide evidence that reasonable steps have been taken to recover care of the child. Acceptable evidence includes:
- documentation of police or court action, or
- contact information for the other person's legal representative if legal action has not yet commenced.
Where possible, a copy of the documentation should be attached to the individual's request. Otherwise Centrelink must sight the evidence and document the details with the individual's request. If there is no documentation available, Centrelink should confirm that the individual has sought legal advice with a legal representative.
What is considered reasonable for a person will depend on the circumstances of the case. The person making the claim must take reasonable steps for the recovery of the child.
Example: An unknown person abducts a child. The parent notifies the police that the child has been taken. FTB can be continued for 14 weeks beginning on the day the child ceases to be in the adult's care. However if the child has not been found and returned to the parent's care after 14 weeks, payment of FTB is cancelled.
Act reference: FAAct section 23 Effect of FTB child ceasing to be in individual's care without consent
Past period claim (1.1.P.60) lodged by original carer
Where an abduction has occurred during the period included in the claim, the individual must provide evidence of their attempt to recover care of the child.
Abductor claims FTB instalments
A parent always has legal responsibility for their child, unless it is taken away from them by an order of the Family Court. If a parent who still has legal responsibility for the child has taken the child away from the care of another person, it is considered to be a disputed care case rather than an abduction (184.108.40.206).
If a parent has had legal responsibility for a child taken away from them by the Family Court, it is usually because it is not in the best interests of the child to allow that parent to care for the child. In this situation, a claim for payment by a parent who abducted the child should be rejected.
If a claim is received from another person who may have abducted the child, a social worker should assess the child's situation and make a report on whether the individual is providing sufficient care for the child, and whether the child is at risk of harm.
Policy reference: FA Guide 220.127.116.11 Child at Risk of Harm
Past period claim lodged by abductor
As for an instalment claim, it is unlikely that an abductor would be eligible for FTB for a past period. The claim must however be considered based on all information about the case that may be available, either from the individual or the original carer.
Release of information about the abductor
Details of a claim for payment made by an abductor must be referred to Centrelink Privacy and Access Information Team in NSO.
Explanation: If the Australian Federal Police are investigating the child's whereabouts, it may be possible to release information in the public interest about the child and the individual to the police. This is only done by NSO staff.
Under no circumstances can information about the new individual be released to the losing carer. Normal privacy requirements apply for both the previous and new individual except for the release of information in the public interest.
Act reference: FA(Admin)Act section 166 Offence: offering to supply protected information, section 168 Disclosure of information by Secretary