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. Summary of the maintenance action test


This topic provides an introduction to the MAT. It includes:

The MAT is applied in the same way for instalment claims (1.1.I.100) and past period claims (1.1.P.60) for FTB.

Requirement to take reasonable action for maintenance

An individual is required to take reasonable maintenance action for a child if they are entitled to apply for maintenance ( for the child and the Secretary considers that it is reasonable that they should take this action. This requirement also applies to the individual's current partner (1.1.P.30) if the partner is entitled to apply for maintenance for the child. If either the individual or the partner, if applicable, fails to meet this requirement, only the base rate (1.1.B.15) of FTB Part A is payable in respect of the child and the child is not included for RA purposes.

An individual who is a payer in a child support case is not required to seek maintenance for the child for whom they pay child support as they are already taking reasonable action.

Explanation: Action for maintenance may not be applicable, or an exemption may be granted.

Act reference: FAAct Schedule 1 clause 10 Effect of certain maintenance rights

Maintenance & child support

For FTB purposes, maintenance refers to both spousal maintenance and child maintenance. Child support refers only to child maintenance. For the purposes of the FTB MAT, only action for child maintenance relating to an FTB child is relevant. Action for spousal maintenance is not required; however any spousal maintenance received by the individual is assessable under the maintenance income test.

Any maintenance received by an individual or their partner is assessed under the maintenance income test. An individual who receives maintenance has more total income, even if their rate of FTB Part A is reduced by the maintenance income test. The individual may continue to receive child support until their child turns 18 years or upon application, until their child finishes secondary school in the year they turn 18, regardless of whether they continue to receive FTB.

Act reference: FAAct section 3(1)-'maintenance income'

Policy reference: FA Guide 3.1.7 Maintenance income test


The CSS was introduced in 2 stages. Stage 1 was implemented from 1 June 1988 under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988. Stage 2 was implemented from 1 October 1989 under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. The scheme placed an obligation on eligible parents to financially support their children. Child Support was created to enforce this legislation. Before the introduction of the CSS, child support could only be obtained if the parents reached an agreement, or by getting an order from a court.

The requirements for maintenance action under each stage are different. The appropriate stage is worked out based on the individual's circumstances.

Policy reference: FA Guide Determining which stage of the CSS applies

Progress of maintenance action

In relation to maintenance action for a particular child, an individual may:

  • be taking reasonable maintenance action
  • have taken reasonable maintenance action
  • not have any applicable maintenance action to take, or
  • be exempt from taking maintenance action.

Policy reference: FA Guide Taking reasonable maintenance action, Maintenance action in progress, Reasonable maintenance action completed - Child Support collect, Reasonable maintenance action completed - private collect, When maintenance action is not applicable, Exemptions from the maintenance action test, Payer is overseas

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