1.1.P.414 Principal carer - disputed care arrangements & abduction
If a child is removed from a principal carer's care without legal authority or their consent (for example, child abduction, the child is missing, or a family court order is not being complied with) and the principal carer takes reasonable steps to recover care of the child, the person remains the child’s principal carer during the period of absence. The intention is to allow the person to continue to be treated as a principal carer despite the fact they have lost care of the dependent child, and in certain circumstances, a person can continue to be paid an income support payment as a principal carer if the person continues to take reasonable steps to recover care of the child.
In the event that the person who has removed the child/ren from the principal carer's care, claims PP, JSP (principal carer), YA (other) or SpB their claim to be the principal carer should be rejected IF the principal carer continues to take reasonable steps to seek return of the child/ren. This is because only ONE person can be the principal carer of a particular child.
Act reference: SSAct section 5(15) Principal carer, section 5(17) For the purpose of determining whether a person is the principal carer of a child …, section 5(2) to section (8A) Dependent child …
Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.D.70 Dependent child
Taking reasonable steps to recover care of child
To be treated as a principal carer during the period of absence, the person MUST take reasonable steps to recover care of the child. Reasonable steps include:
- notifying the police that the child has been taken from care without consent, or
- taking out a recovery order through the court.
During the absence, the principal carer must continue to actively seek return of the child/ren.
Claimants MUST provide evidence that reasonable steps have been taken to recover care of the child. Evidence includes:
- documentation of police or court action, OR
- contact information for the person's legal representative if legal action has not yet commenced. (The legal representative should be contacted to confirm that steps have been taken.)
What is considered reasonable for a person will depend on the circumstances of the case, however, the person MUST take active steps for the recovery of the child. Simply objecting about the loss of care to Services Australia does NOT meet the requirement for taking reasonable steps.
Example: An unknown person abducts a child. The parent notifies the police that the child has been taken. PP can continue to be paid so long as the parent continues to take steps to seek return of the child.
Example: Parent A and Parent B have a parenting order in place. Parent B receives PP for their dependent child. Parent A breaches the order by not returning the child to Parent B and Parent B commences legal action. PP can continue to be paid to Parent B during the legal action.
Note: The commencement of legal action will need to be confirmed either through court documents or contact with Parent B's legal representative.