The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

1.7 Family & domestic violence


The Government funds 1800RESPECT, Australia's national telephone and online counselling and support service for people affected by domestic, family and sexual violence, their family and friends and frontline workers. It provides free counselling and support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For counselling, information or support, call 1800 737 732 or go to the National domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service, 1800RESPECT.


Services Australia operates in a sensitive environment and must avoid, as far as possible, actions which could contribute to family and domestic violence. This chapter describes how Services Australia manage child support cases where there is a risk of family and domestic violence.

Act references

CSA Act section 150, section 151

CSRC Act section 16, section 38, section 38B

FAAct Schedule 1 clause 10

FL Act section 4AB

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Maintenance action test for FTB Part A

If a separated parent receives FTB Part A for a child from a former relationship, and wish to receive more than the base rate of FTB Part A (and rent assistance) for that child, they must take reasonable action to apply for a child support assessment.

FA Guide topic 3.1.5 provides information on the maintenance action test which applies to separated parents who receive FTB Part A.

If a parent has a fear of family and domestic violence, they can apply to Services Australia for a full or part exemption from the maintenance action test (FA Guide

Parents & carers at risk of family & domestic violence

When a person who makes a child support application is identified as being at risk of family and domestic violence, administrative options should be discussed with them. This could include details and consequences of:

Wherever possible, a person must make their own decision about whether and how to pursue collection of child support and Services Australia will support their decision.

Services Australia recognises that a person at risk may adopt one course of action for a period of time and may later adopt another course if the situation has changed, and Services Australia will provide them with all options and encourage them to discuss their case if their situation changes.

Proceeding with an application

During an initial discussion with the child support applicant, an officer may become aware that the applicant may be at risk. The applicant should be advised that continuing with the application means that Services Australia will need to contact the other party to the assessment.

If the applicant has concerns about that contact they can withdraw the application and apply for an exemption from the FTB maintenance action test, if necessary. The applicant should be advised to reapply for child support if an exemption is not granted.

Continuing collection

A payee may decide that they wish the assessment to continue and for the amounts payable to be collected by Services Australia.

In such cases, Services Australia will take particular care to manage the case in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Services Australia, in consultation with the payee, will adopt strategies to reduce the likelihood of violent behaviour and provide safety for the payee and the children, for example, advising the payee before commencement of enforcement action and before Services Australia contacts the payer to discuss liabilities and collection action. Services Australia may also refer the payee to other organisations for support.

If the payee decides they wish to privately collect their assessment and they do not wish to pursue a full or partial exemption, Services Australia will discuss the potential consequences of such a decision with the payee, such as the impact of a retrospective increase in the assessment (FA Guide and 5.1.4).

Ending a child support assessment due to family & domestic violence

A payee can elect to end their child support assessment. Services Australia will end the case and advise the payee they can reapply for a child support assessment at any time in the future (CSA Act section 151).

If a payee who is receiving or is entitled to receive more than the base rate of FTB Part A is considered to be at risk of family and domestic violence, Services Australia will offer a referral to a social worker for a risk assessment.

If the payee is assessed to be at risk of family and domestic violence, they may be granted an exemption from the maintenance action test (FA Guide If they have not already made an election to end their assessment, Services Australia will invite them to make an election (2.10.2).

When Services Australia accepts a payee's election to end a child support assessment due to the threat of family and domestic violence, details of why the case was ended will be recorded in their case records.

Reporting threats of family & domestic violence

Services Australia will make a record of any conversation with a person threatening violence and any conversation with the person who is the subject of a threat. The record may be required as evidence in court proceedings.

Where a person makes a threat against another person, Services Australia will consider whether the matter should be reported to the police.

The secrecy provisions in the child support legislation allow Services Australia to disclose the threat to the person being threatened and to ask them whether they want Services Australia to report the incident (CSRC Act section 16(3) and CSA Act section 150). The disclosure is for the purposes of the child support legislation because Services Australia must disclose the threat in order to talk to the payee about appropriate future assessment and collection activities.

Services Australia will usually consult with the threatened person before deciding to report a threat of violence to the police, but this is not a requirement (CSRC Act section 16(3) and CSA Act section 150(3)). Where there is an immediate or urgent need to prevent an offence, Services Australia will report a threat to the police without prior consultation with the threatened person (CSRC Act section 16(3)(e) and CSA Act section 150(3)(e)). There may also be occasions where the officer handling the matter will report a threat to the police against the wishes of the threatened person because they believe the threat to that person's safety is so serious. This may be the case where Services Australia is aware of a current intervention order such as a domestic violence order (DVO) or apprehended violence order (AVO).

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