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.

4.3.1 Overview


In some circumstances a parent may apply directly to a court if dissatisfied with some Registrar decisions made under the CSA Act and the CSRC Act. In other cases a parent may be able to appeal to court after having a first review decision made by the AAT, or for certain types of decisions where a second review decision has been made, and the AAT has made an error of law.

On a direct application, the court may make a range of orders affecting the child support case, including orders under the FL Act. Where an application was based on an appeal from the AAT about an error of law, the court may generally make orders about how the AAT should review the case.

Court applications & orders

In some circumstances, a parent can apply directly to a court if they are dissatisfied with a decision made by the Registrar under the CSA Act or the CSRC Act. It is usually necessary for the Registrar to have dealt with an objection about the decision before the parent can make their court application.

A court dealing with a parent's application under the CSA Act or CSRC Act must have jurisdiction to deal with child support matters under those Acts. Courts with jurisdiction include:

  • Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
  • State and Territory Magistrates Courts
  • Family Court of Western Australia.

The court may make other orders affecting a child support case that are detailed in 4.3.2 and 4.3.6, including orders about child support agreements, stay orders and orders against a payee for the repayment of overpaid child support.

The court may also make some orders under the FL Act that will affect a child support assessment. These include orders relating to care of a child.

The ADJR Act provides that a parent may apply to the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) for a review of any decision made by the Registrar, except for change of assessment decisions under Part 6A of the CSA Act. Applications under the ADJR Act relate to whether the Registrar has properly made the decision according to law. The court cannot review the merits of the decision (4.3.7).

Court appeals of AAT decisions

The AAT Act sets out the courts that a person may appeal to from a decision of the AAT, and these are the Federal Court of Australia, or the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2).

A parent can appeal to the Federal Court of Australia on a question of law in relation to an AAT first review of an objection decision (AAT Act section 44(1A)) or an AAT second review of an AAT decision (AAT Act section 44(1)).

Where the AAT first review decision did not involve an AAT presidential member, a person may choose to appeal the first review decision to either the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) (AAT Act section 44AAA).

The AAT can also refer a question of law arising in a proceeding to the Federal Court of Australia (AAT Act section 45). In certain circumstances a parent can also apply directly to a court for a change to their child support assessment because of special circumstances (CSA Act section 116).

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