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. Stage 1 - no registered or informal agreement or court order

Individual is not receiving maintenance (1.1.M.10)

Stage 1 individuals should be referred to a Legal Aid agency or solicitor for help to seek child maintenance (1.1.C.20), if they:

  • are not exempt from taking reasonable maintenance action
  • are not receiving child maintenance under an informal agreement
  • do not have a court order (1.1.C.70) or registered agreement, and
  • do not have legal proceedings underway.

Individuals should be advised that if they choose to engage the services of a private solicitor they must bear any associated costs. Individuals are entitled to financial assistance from Legal Aid if they meet the legal aid income and asset test requirements.

Centrelink staff should obtain information about coordinating referrals with Legal Aid.

The process for seeking a court order for maintenance

If the parties are seeking a court order for maintenance, the Individual lodges an application for maintenance with the Family Court or a court that has jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975.

Example: A local or magistrate's court.

At the preliminary hearing the parties, if agreed, may register an agreement with the court, or the court may make an order by consent. If the case is contested, the court will adjourn the hearing to another date.

Policy reference: FA Guide Taking reasonable maintenance action, Exemptions from the maintenance action test

Reasonable maintenance action - legal proceedings initiated

Individuals taking legal action for child maintenance are required to lodge an application with the court within 13 weeks of being advised by Centrelink of the requirement to take action, in order to meet the MAT.

The individual must be asked to produce the copy of the form at the 13 week review, if they have not already done so. The case should be reviewed at the date of the hearing.

Policy reference: FA Guide Maintenance action in progress

Delays in legal process

There may be cases where action has been delayed because of legal processes. In these circumstances the individual must produce a letter from a legal adviser giving the reasons for the delay. An extension of the time limit should be granted as necessary to the circumstances.

Policy reference: FA Guide Maintenance action test reviews

Centrelink action after preliminary hearing

After the preliminary hearing, the individual must advise Centrelink if:

  • a consent order has been made, or
  • a date has been set for a further hearing.

If a further hearing has been set, the review date is coded as the hearing date and the individual should be asked to notify Centrelink of the outcome of that hearing.

Individual makes an informal agreement

If the individual has made an informal agreement (1.1.M.15), child maintenance is assessed from the date of first payment. This must be within 13 weeks to meet the reasonable maintenance action guidelines, unless it is considered that the individual is continuing to take action or the delay is beyond their control.

Action not taken

If the individual has not made an informal agreement or lodged an application with the court, action should be taken to reduce their rate of FTB to the base rate for the child.

Policy reference: FA Guide Maintenance action test reviews

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