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. Establishing a pattern of care


If the care percentage for a child is not agreed between carers, it is necessary to establish a pattern of care (1.1.P.70) to make a shared care determination for FTB. A pattern of care is generally established by using the number of nights in care (1.1.N.15) for each FTB child. The percentage of care for each FTB child is then calculated and applied to the standard rate (1.1.S.103) of FTB Part A and FTB Part B.

This topic includes the following:

  • how to establish a pattern of care
  • nights in care versus hours of care, and
  • minor variations in the pattern of care for instalment individuals.

Calculation of the percentage of care is explained in

How to establish a pattern of care

The pattern of care to be generally used in the shared care assessment is the actual care arrangements for the child. As much as possible, the pattern of care should be the pattern as agreed to by all parties who care for the child. Otherwise, Centrelink must carry out further investigation to determine the actual pattern of care.

An assessment of care arrangements that is determined by either Centrelink for FA purposes or Child Support for child support purposes will have effect for the other agency in relation to care periods that begin on or after this date. This means where a care percentage has been determined by Child Support, that determination will be aligned for the purpose of FA and will be applied in determining the individual's care percentage for FTB purposes. Centrelink will only be able to make a new care determination if there has been a change in the care arrangements (

Carers agree on pattern of care

Where all carers agree on the actual pattern of care for the child, the agreed pattern of care is used to determine the care percentage.

Example: Linda receives FTB for her son John. After separation, Phillip, Linda's ex-partner, claims FTB on 5 September stating he is sharing care of the child. Both parents agree that Phillip has care of the child every second weekend and school holidays and Linda has care for the remainder of the time. The pattern of care commenced on 31 August and will continue for the foreseeable future. Phillip may be granted FTB on the basis of the shared care percentage derived from the agreed pattern of care and Linda's entitlement is reassessed accordingly.

Carers disagree on pattern of care

Where the carers do not agree on the actual pattern of care for the child, Centrelink must determine the actual pattern of care on the basis of available evidence. This applies even if a formal care arrangement (1.1.C.05) exists. If the carers do not agree on the care percentage, each carer should be asked to provide additional evidence to support their declared arrangements in order for Centrelink to make a decision as to the actual pattern of care. Examples of evidence, which may be provided by the carers, are outlined in

Example: Simone and Lucy are members of a couple. Simone receives FTB for her daughter Katia. After they separate, Lucy claims FTB on 3 May stating she is sharing the care of the child. Lucy has a family law order stating the caring arrangements for the child. Centrelink contacts Simone who states that Lucy is not complying with the order. Simone presents child care receipts and written advice from family and friends to confirm the actual care arrangements. Lucy presents no evidence of her actual care arrangements apart from the family law order. Lucy may be granted FTB with a shared care percentage based on the actual pattern of care as confirmed by the documentation provided by Simone, rather than the caring arrangements specified in the family law order (

Where an FTB child is being shared, all carers of the child should be consulted in making the shared care determination for the following reasons:

  • to ensure that the FTB individual is paid the correct rate
  • the other carer may decide to claim their shared care entitlement later
  • the care determination may impact on the other parties' child support assessment, and
  • consultation at the initial stage should reduce the likelihood of reviews and appeals.

If the FTB individual provides proof of the other carer's agreement with the stated care percentages or arrangements (e.g. their signature on the form stating care details), contact with the other carer to verify those arrangements is not necessary.

Policy reference: FA Guide Verification of shared care arrangements

Nights in care versus hours of care

Generally a pattern of care is based on the number of nights in a care period where an individual has the overnight care of an FTB child. A person with the overnight care of a child is regarded as having had care of the child for that day.

Explanation: One night in care equals one day in care.

Example: Alison and Neil share the care of their 2 children according to a written agreement. Their current care period is from 30 April to 30 June, which is 62 nights. The children stay with Neil every second weekend starting from Friday 4 May, and the rest of the time they live with Alison. The pattern of care is worked out as follows:

  • Neil provides 10 weekend nights of care, and
  • Alison provides 52 nights of care made up of 44 week nights plus 8 weekend nights.

There may be some occasions where only counting the nights in care does not accurately reflect the caring arrangements for the child. In such cases, at the request of a carer, the actual number of hours of care may be calculated for each carer in determining the pattern of care and then converted into days in care.

Example: William and Julia are divorced. They have 3 children. Sam attends primary school, and Pat and Louise attend a pre-school program. William and Julia do not have a formal care arrangement such as a family law order, parenting plan or written agreement, and they are unsure of their respective percentages of care.

William works full-time during the week, and Julia works part-time on Sundays. William takes the children to Julia every morning at 8 am on his way to work. Julia is responsible for the children during the day, and participates in parental activities at Sam's school. William picks the children up on his way home at 6 pm from Monday to Thursday. The children spend Friday night with Julia and she leaves them with William on her way to work at 8 am on Sunday. This means that Julia cares for the children between the hours from 8 am to 6 pm Monday to Thursday, as well as from 8 am on Friday, as Julia is responsible for the children during the day while they are at school. William cares for the children during the day from 8 am on Sunday, as Julia has returned them to William and he cares for them overnight Sunday night.

Twice a year during school holidays the children spend a full week with William. Once during the end of year school holidays they spend a full 4 weeks with Julia. The care period used to determine the care percentages is 12 months from the day the care arrangements commenced, automatically renewed at the end of every 12 month period until a change in the pattern of care occurs.

The pattern of care is worked out as follows:

  • William provides 167.81 days of care

    • 2 full weeks during school holidays = 14 days
    • During remaining 323 days of the year
      (80 hours ÷ total 168 hours per week) × 323 days = 153.81 days
    • Therefore, 153.81 days + 14 days = 167.81 days per year
  • Julia provides 197 days of care

    • 4 full weeks during school holidays = 28 days
    • During remaining 323 days of the year
      (88 hours ÷ total 168 hours per week) × 323 days = 169.19 days
    • Therefore, 168.19 days + 28 days = 197.19 days per year

Instalment claim - pattern of care changes

The future pattern of care declared by the person at the time of making an instalment claim is used to determine the percentage of FTB to be paid. Minor variations to the pattern of care do not affect payment of FTB. If the variations in the care arrangements become a regular occurrence, the person must notify Centrelink and a new determination of the percentage of FTB payable must be made.

Example: Joshua usually stays the weekends with one of his parents and lives with the other during the week. Both parents have claimed FTB by instalment. Over the care period, there are a few occasions where Joshua stays with a friend on the weekend or with other relatives during the week. These variations are not significant to either parent, so payment of FTB continues based on the 'normal' pattern of care.

The guidelines in this topic for establishing the pattern of care at the new claim stage also apply to changes to the pattern of care subsequently advised.

Policy reference: FA Guide Shared care & change of care summary, Verification of shared care arrangements

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