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. Maintenance action test reviews


This topic explains what review action should be taken under Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the CSS to ensure that an individual is taking reasonable maintenance (1.1.M.10) action.

If the individual has been granted an exemption or a period of review and the reason is no longer appropriate or applicable because circumstances have changed, the exemption must be reviewed. If appropriate, they must be advised that they are required to take reasonable action for maintenance. If the individual does not take steps to meet this requirement within 14 days, their FTB Part A must be reduced to the base rate (1.1.B.10) for the affected child or children.

Policy reference: FA Guide Determining which stage of the CSS applies, Taking reasonable maintenance action, Exemptions from the maintenance action test

General review timeframes

Where an individual has maintenance action in progress under Stage 1 or Stage 2, their circumstances should be reviewed at least every 12 months. It may be appropriate to review the case sooner depending on the circumstances.

Example: A court has refused to make an order regarding the paternity of the payer (1.1.P.72). The recipient indicates that she will be pursuing the matter further and has applied to Legal Aid for assistance. Her circumstances should be reviewed once the outcome of her application to Legal Aid is known.

Types of reviews & their timeframes

The following table outlines the types of reviews and when they are undertaken.

Circumstances Timing of review
Stage 1 or Stage 2 Separation or birth of baby 28 days
Whereabouts of payer is unknown 12 months
Payer imprisoned 12 months
Stage 1 payer's income is too low
  • 12 months
  • This is explained further in this topic.
Required to take legal action
  • 90 days, and
  • after each court hearing to determine if circumstances have changed.
Proof of paternity/legal advice
  • Reviewed as necessary.
  • This is explained further in this topic.
Violence or fear of violence 12 months, unless a more appropriate time is specified by a social worker (
Other circumstances As applicable

Payer's income is too low

Where a Stage 1 individual cannot complete action because the payer's income is too low, this should be checked every 12 months to determine if Centrelink records show the payer is receiving a pension, allowance or benefit. If the payer is receiving a social security payment (1.1.S.80), the payee can be considered to have maintenance action in progress.

To ensure that the confidentiality provisions in Division 3 of Part 5 of the SS(Admin)Act are not breached, the individual must not be told that the payer receives a social security payment.

If Centrelink records show that the payer is no longer receiving a social security payment, the individual should be advised that:

  • maintenance action must be taken, or
  • they must provide evidence that the payer's income is still so low that payment of child support could not be expected.

If the individual cannot provide such evidence, the individual must take action to obtain a court order or a child support assessment/agreement.

The payer will still be required to pay a minimum amount per year (CS Guide 2.4.2), even if they receive a social security payment, if Child Support is collecting child support under:

  • a Stage 2 child support administrative assessment, or
  • a court order or court registered agreement.

From 1 July 2008, if a payer reports a low taxable income and is not receiving income support, they may be required to pay child support based on a fixed assessment. Fixed assessments cover parents who minimise their taxable income in a way that does not fairly represent their true income or real capacity to pay child support.

If the individual receives income support and has regular care of a child (between 14% and less than 35% or between 52 nights and 127 nights a year), they do not need to pay the minimum as they already meet some of the costs of raising the child directly through the care they provide.

If an individual receives income support and has 2 or more child support assessments they will pay an amount of child support, which is divided equally between the payees. Current child support rates can be found in the CS Guide 2.4.2.

Proof of paternity

Where a court has refused to make an order as to paternity or paternity testing (and this is evidenced by a court document/s or legal advice), the exemption should be continued. These cases should be reviewed as necessary. When the case is reviewed, a social worker should interview the individual to determine whether the circumstances have altered. If the situation is likely to continue for a temporary period, the exemption may be continued for a period of up to 6 months. If the situation is likely to continue indefinitely, a permanent exemption may be granted.

Policy reference: FA Guide Role of the ISO & social worker

CS Guide 2.4.2 Formula tables & values, 2.4.11 Fixed annual rate

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