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Tribunal: Member H Schuster

The parents in this case had a child support assessment in place for their child since 2004. From 2011, the parents shared care of 50 per cent each in respect of the child. In February 2017, after notification by the mother, Centrelink made a decision that the mother had 100 per cent care of the child from September 2016. In March 2017, the Child Support Registrar gave effect to this decision by amending the child support assessment from 17 February 2017. The father objected to that decision and said that the child had not been in the mother’s care either, but had been living with her aunt. The father’s objection was disallowed and he applied to the AAT to have that decision reviewed.

The central issue for the AAT in this case was whether the mother was providing care to the child despite the fact that the child was not living in the mother’s home for an extended period of time.

The AAT found that what constitutes having “care” of a child is not defined in the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. It considered various factors set out in the Child Support Guide in relation to older children living away from the parental home.

The AAT highlighted that it is not uncommon for parents to make arrangements for an older child to stay with another family member for periods of time when there are relationship problems. While rejecting the father’s contention that no money was spent on the child, the AAT accepted the mother’s evidence that she had made bank transfers to the maternal aunt and continued to make major clothing purchases and pay for school related expenses for the child. The AAT found that on the balance of probabilities the mother provided 100% of the care for the child. The AAT affirmed the decision under review.

Read the full decision on AustLII.