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. Assessment of extreme family breakdown & other similar exceptional circumstances

How is breakdown established

For the purposes of independence, family breakdown may be due to various causes. Family breakdown must be considered in the context of the whole family situation, and must establish circumstances where it is unreasonable to expect the person to remain in that family environment.

The existence of ongoing conflict alone is insufficient grounds to grant independence under this criteria. Factors which may indicate extreme family breakdown include:

  • one or more members of the family are experiencing documented behavioural, health and/or mental health issues which can be attributed to the breakdown of the family relationship
  • the young person is engaging in substance misuse and/or exhibiting behaviour so extreme that specialised intervention has been unsuccessful and it is beyond reasonable expectations for the parent/s to have the capacity to resolve the situation
  • evidence that the emotional or physical well-being of the young person or another family member would be jeopardised including being due to violence, sexual abuse, or other similar circumstances if the young person were to live at home
  • unsuccessful attempts have been made to resolve the issue/s, for example through counselling or mediation.

Ongoing emotional and personal support from a parent can influence the assessment of whether, or not, there is extreme family breakdown.

Parents refuse to allow young person to live at home

If parents refuse to allow the young person to live at home, this does not constitute 'extreme family breakdown' unless there is evidence of extreme and enduring family conflict. This applies particularly if the response from the parents is a result of the young person being unwilling to meet reasonable expectations.

What are 'other similar exceptional circumstances'

Situations that constitute 'other similar exceptional circumstances', or that are similar to extreme family breakdown cannot be defined. The following list provides some examples.


  • criminal activity or substance abuse by the parents, OR
  • severe neglect, where adequate food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, medical attention and supervision is not being provided, OR
  • extreme and abnormal demands placed on the young person.

Example: Cultural or religious demands, although these would rarely constitute the main reason for determining extreme family breakdown. Extreme cultural practices are generally illegal practices such as arranged marriages and female circumcision.

Example: Refusal to allow the young person to work or study.

Parental expectations

It is NOT sufficient that parents disapprove of relationships or lifestyle choices made by the young person. The compulsion on the young person MUST be real and specific to the young person rather than a general policy of people in a particular religious or social group, and MUST meet the extreme criteria.

Example: The requirement to participate in general religious rites or to fulfil reasonable family responsibilities would not be considered sufficient demands to qualify under this category.

Assessment of extreme family breakdown & other similar exceptional circumstances

Assessment and verification of the family's circumstances would need to satisfy the delegate that the deterioration of the family relationships is extreme enough to warrant the young person leaving the family home. The provisions are not to be applied any differently across the range of claimants, even for older young people who may have had no dealings with their family for several years. Similarly, if parents refuse to cooperate, the same provisions still apply.

Assessing officers should not initiate contact with alleged perpetrators of abuse or neglect. This could pose an unacceptable risk to the young person.

The assessment must include:

  • personal contact with the claimant, preferably an interview, AND
  • parental contact (except where this presents a severe risk to the young person or others, such as siblings), AND
  • third party verification, AND
  • for Youth Protective Assessment cases, contact with state or territory child protection agencies.

Act reference: SSAct section 1067A(9)(a)(i) Unreasonable to live at home

Last reviewed: