220.127.116.11 Determining percentage of care
This topic explains how to calculate the percentage of care when 2 or more individuals (1.1.I.90) share the care of an FTB child and they have not provided Centrelink with an agreed percentage of care or there is disagreement over the percentage of care. The percentage of care is calculated taking into account the pattern of care (1.1.P.70) over the care period (1.1.C.100).
This topic includes the following:
- alignment of care
- the steps used to calculate a percentage of care, and
- scenarios which show how to calculate the percentage of care following a variation to the pattern of care.
The processes of establishing the pattern of care, and calculating the rate of FTB are covered in separate topics.
Alignment of care
As a result of legislative changes made by the Child Support and Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Act 2010, from 1 July 2010 some rules relating to the determination of care percentages differ before and after this date.
From 1 July 2010, Child Support and Centrelink share care determinations where there is a child recognised in a child support assessment and a person receives FTB for the child. 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. Centrelink will not need to determine the care percentage unless there has been a change in the care arrangements and a new care determination is required. Child Support uses the same rules to verify shared care arrangements as Centrelink (18.104.22.168).
Before 1 July 2010, care determinations were not shared between Child Support and Centrelink. These changes do not affect care determinations made before 1 July 2010.
Any determination made before 1 July 2010 must be revoked and a new determination made in order for post 1 July 2010 alignment of care rules to apply.
Act reference: Child Support and Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Act 2010 item 101, item 103, item 107
Step 1 - Establish the pattern of care
The pattern of care to be used in the shared care determination is either the pattern agreed to by all carers of the child or, if there is no such agreement, the pattern of care as established by the decision maker for the care period. A care period is the period over which care is assessed to determine the care percentages for each carer. A care period begins on the day on which the care of a child starts to be shared between 2 or more adults, or the day on which the pattern of care changes and ends when there is a subsequent change in care. It should be noted that a care period will generally be a 12 month period from the commencement of that level of care and the same level of care will be assumed to apply for subsequent 12 month periods, unless otherwise advised. A care period may be shorter than 12 months where the level of care is unsettled and changes on a regular basis.
Example 1: Angus and Julie have agreed to a level of care for Claire on a 50/50 basis for the 4 month period from 1 November to 28 February. They have agreed to review this at the end of February, as Angus has extensive work engagements that may mean he will not be able to provide care at the same level. At the beginning of March, Angus and Julie agree that Julie will provide care of Claire for 65% of the nights in the period from 1 March to 31 October, and Angus for 35% for that period. Centrelink is advised during March of the new level of care. The care period from 1 November to 28 February based on the 50/50 shared care comes to an end and a new care period based on the new care percentages of 65% for Julie and 35% for Angus begins from March. These new care percentages will continue to apply until a further change is notified.
Example 2: Julie and Ken have recently separated and are uncertain about the ongoing levels of care for their child, Joel, over the longer term. In the period immediately after separation, from June to November, Julie and Prue, Joel's grandmother, care for him equally. Julie, Prue and Ken all share care of Joel equally from December to February and Julie and Ken share care equally from March to May. Even though Julie has provided continuous care for a 12 month period there are 3 separate care periods because the proportion of care each person has provided has changed twice.
Depending on the circumstances, there may also be more than 1 care period operating simultaneously in relation to different children being cared for by the same carer.
Examples: Samantha shares care of her son John on a 50/50 basis with John's other parent Bruce and this is an arrangement that is assessed over ongoing 12 month periods to May each year. Samantha also shares care of her daughter Fiona with Fiona's other parent Karen. As Samantha and Karen have recently separated, their levels of care for Fiona are on a 50/50 basis for a trial 6 month period. Although these percentages are agreed between Samantha and Karen, the levels of care are variable, which they have indicated to Centrelink. As they separated on 15 February, their care period runs until 14 August. If no further advice is received from Samantha or Karen, Centrelink may decide to continue the care period from 15 August on an ongoing 12 month basis from then.
Step 2 - Work out the percentage of care
Having established the pattern of care during the care period, the number of nights in care (1.1.N.15) is divided by the number of days in the care period and multiplied by 100 to arrive at a percentage.
Example: Colin's parenting plan (1.1.P.20) states that his daughter Anne is to stay with him during the Easter and mid-year school holidays, in addition to other regular care on an ongoing basis. Over the 12 month care period, Colin cares for Anne for 147 nights, which is divided by 365 and multiplied by 100 to get a care percentage of 40%. Colin is eligible for 35% of the standard FTB rate (1.1.S.103).
Step 3 - Rounding the percentage of care
From 1 July 2008, new rounding rules for care percentage took effect. For care below 50%, care level must be rounded down to the nearest whole number. However, for care levels of 50% and above, care percentage must be rounded up to the nearest whole number.
Examples: Ken has care of his 2 children 127 nights a year with his ex-partner Michelle having care of the children the remaining 238 nights. Ken's percentage of care is determined to be 34.8% (127 ÷ 365 × 100) and Michelle's percentage is 65.2% (238 ÷ 365 × 100). As Ken's care percentage is below 50, his level of care is rounded down from 34.8% to 34% while Michelle's percentage is rounded up from 65.2% to 66%. This means Ken is not eligible to receive FTB (child related components) and Michelle receives 100% of the FTB payment.
If there are more than 2 carers and one of them has a level of care lower than 35% that person is deemed not to have an FTB child. Their share of care may be apportioned between the other carers who have at least 35% each provided all carers for the care period have been identified and included in determining care percentages. If there is another eligible carer who has not claimed, their share of entitlement cannot be apportioned.
Examples: Karen, Ben and Edith share the care of Tom. Karen has 40%, Ben has 36% and Edith has 24% actual care. Edith has less than 35% care of Tom and is therefore not entitled to receive FTB. However, as Edith has more than 14% care, Tom is considered her regular care child. As Karen and Ben each have more than 35% actual care, they are each entitled to FTB for Tom. To apportion the unclaimed 24% between Karen and Ben, use the following calculation method:
- Karen's share of FTB = 40 ÷ 76 × 100 = 52.63 and rounded up to 53, where 40 is Karen's shared care and 76 is the total of Karen and Ben's share of care.
- Ben's percentage is 36 ÷ 76 × 100 = 47.36 but rounded down to 47.
Note: Apportioning of FTB where there is a carer who has less than 35% care does not affect the actual care determination. All carers will still have their care percentages assessed. For child support purposes, the information that is sent to Child Support will include care percentage information on all carers who have a child support assessment.
Act reference: FAAct section 25 Effect of an individual's percentage of care for a child being less than 35%
Step 4 - Calculating the rate
The percentage of care for each person for a care period is applied to the standard rate of FTB Part A and FTB Part B for that person. As each carer's circumstances are different, the rate of FTB may differ even when they have the same percentage of care.
Policy reference: FA Guide 22.214.171.124 Shared care rate for FTB
Scenario 1 - Variation to pattern of care
Anna and Bill have a parenting plan (1.1.P.21) setting out the care arrangements for their 3 children, Alyce, Brian and Clara. Both Anna and Bill have claimed FTB instalments. The care period is the 12 month period starting 1 August, and the following percentages of care have been worked out based on the plan:
- Anna's percentages
- Alyce 40%
- Brian 37%, and
- Clara 50%.
- Bill's percentages
- Alyce 60%
- Brian 63%, and
- Clara 50%.
On 5 November Anna contacts Centrelink and advises that the pattern of care for Alyce and Clara has changed from 1 November. Anna gives details of the new arrangements. The new pattern of care is expected to continue indefinitely. Centrelink contacts Bill, and he confirms the arrangements notified by Anna. The levels of care for the new care period beginning from 1 November are:
- Anna cares for
- Alyce 197 nights, and
- Clara 147 nights.
- Bill cares for
- Alyce 168 nights, and
- Clara 218 nights.
The level of care for Brian has not changed.
The percentages of care for the new care period from 1 November to 31 October are worked out as follows:
- Anna's percentages
- Alyce = 54% (197 ÷ 365 × 100)
- Brian = no change, and
- Clara = 40% (147 ÷ 365 × 100).
- Bill's percentages
- Alyce = 46% (168 ÷ 365 × 100)
- Brian = no change, and
- Clara = 60% (218 ÷ 365 × 100).
The care percentages are applied until a subsequent change in care is reported.
Scenario 2 - Variation to pattern of care
Allan and Beth do not have a parenting plan or agreed percentages of care regarding the care of their children Ashley and Carol. Their pattern of care was assessed on the basis of the care arrangements they both advised. Both Allan and Beth have been receiving instalments of FTB. Allan advises that their levels of care have changed to the following:
- Allan's arrangements
- Ashley 3 nights per week, and
- Carol 4 nights per week.
- Beth's arrangements:
- Ashley 4 nights per week, and
- Carol 3 nights per week.
Beth agrees that this arrangement is ongoing. The percentages of care for the new care period are worked out as follows:
- Allan's arrangements
- Ashley = 156 nights (365 ÷ 7 × 3), and
- Carol = 209 nights (365 ÷ 7 × 4).
- Beth's arrangements
- Ashley = 209 nights (365 ÷ 7 × 4), and
- Carol = 156 nights (365 ÷ 7 × 3).
The percentages of care for the new 12 month care period are worked out as follows:
- Allan's percentages
- Ashley = 42% (156 ÷ 365 × 100), and
- Carol = 58% (209 ÷ 365 × 100).
- Beth's percentages
- Ashley = 58% (209 ÷ 365 × 100), and
- Carol = 42% (156 ÷ 365 × 100).
Scenario 3 - Complex changes in care
Kate and Paul do not have a formal care arrangement (1.1.C.05) specifying care for their child. They have been unable to agree to an ongoing pattern of care. They both receive FTB instalments, and their care has been assessed by Centrelink based on the evidence they provided. Every time there is a variation to their assessed percentage of care they notify Centrelink and a new assessment is made.
Paul applies to the Family Court for a parenting order, which comes into effect from 1 July. Paul notifies Centrelink of the formal care arrangement and provides a copy of the order. Centrelink contacts Kate and confirms that she is caring for the children within the terms of the order. A determination is made to change the share of FTB each person receives to reflect the parenting order.
The following percentages of care have been worked out based on the order:
- Paul's percentages
- Alan = 40%, and
- Brett = 37%.
- Kate's percentages
- Alan = 60%, and
- Brett = 63%.
Paul contacts Centrelink on 6 August to advise that Kate has not been caring for the children since 2 August. When Centrelink contacts Kate to confirm this she agrees that she has not cared for the children since 2 August but states this is because Paul is refusing to return the children to her. Kate applies to the Family Court for another hearing. As Kate has taken reasonable action to ensure compliance with a care arrangement, no reassessment of FTB is required and FTB may continue at the same rate for an interim period up to 14 weeks.
If after 14 weeks the children have still not been returned to Kate, Centrelink must make a new determination of care. As Kate does not have the care of the children, Kate and Paul's FTB payments are reassessed according to the actual pattern of care that now applies. As Kate is not providing any care, Paul may be eligible to receive 100% of FTB for both children.
Note: In special circumstances, the interim period may be extended to up to 26 weeks.
Changes of care that do not effect entitlement
Whether Centrelink revokes an existing care percentage determination will depend on the circumstances of the case. An individual may advise Centrelink about a change of care that would not affect their FTB shared care percentage, but they still wish to have the change reflected on their Centrelink record. In these circumstances, Centrelink should revoke the existing care percentage determination if there is evidence provided by each party, or evidence which is otherwise readily available, to determine new care percentages. This helps to ensure there is an accurate record of the care history. However, if a party to the shared care arrangement does not agree that a change has occurred or the readily available evidence is otherwise not conclusive as to the precise care percentages, Centrelink may decide not to revoke the existing determination and conduct no further investigations. This discretion enables Centrelink to decide to not proceed with unnecessary investigations to determine precise care percentages that would not make a material difference to an individual's FTB entitlement.
Example: Emily and Emma have 1 child, Charles, for whom Emily has 8% care and Emma has 92% care. Emily calls Centrelink to advise that her care percentage of Charles has increased from 8% to 12% care. Centrelink explains that this change, if confirmed, will not affect the amount of FTB payable (it will still be nil). Emma advises there has been no change in care and Emily is unable to produce any evidence that would substantiate the claimed change of care. Centrelink decides not to conduct further investigations, and makes a decision to not revoke the existing care percentage determination.
Example: Kerryn and Shane have 1 child, Mel, for whom Kerryn has 14% care and Shane has 86% care. Kerryn calls Centrelink to advise that her care percentage for Mel has increased from 14% care to 25% care. Centrelink contacts the other parent, Shane, who confirms that Kerryn's care of Mel has increased from 14% care to 25% care. Even though Kerryn's increased level of care for Mel will not affect the FTB payment, Centrelink is satisfied that Kerryn's new care percentage for Mel is 25% and decides to revoke the existing care percentage to enable a new care percentage determination to be made that reflects Kerryn's 25% care of Mel.
Act reference: FAAct section 35Q Secretary may revoke a determination of an individual's percentage of care