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Tribunal: Member Y Webb

The AAT affirmed a decision of a delegate of the Department of Human Services (the Department) that a mother cared for her son 100 per cent of the time. Although he started an apprenticeship and was boarding closer to work for part of the week, she continued to provide him with significant financial, emotional and practical support.

The term ‘care’ is not legally defined, but generally refers to meeting a child’s needs. When the AAT decides whether a parent cares for a child, and to what extent, they consider who provides the child with food, housing, clothing, education, transport, as well as emotional support. Care can also include arranging for another person to meet the child’s needs and paying for the service.

The father claimed once his son started his apprenticeship he no longer lived with his mother. The Department, unable to contact the mother to hear her evidence, found the father had 100 per cent care of the child. This revised a longstanding care percentage of 100 per cent care to the mother and zero to the father. The mother successfully objected to the decision and the father applied to the AAT for review.

At the AAT, the mother agreed her son had started an apprenticeship, which required him to board closer to work for part of the week. However, she denied there was a change of care as she paid for his food, mobile phone, some fuel costs and his boarding fees while he was living away from her. For three nights a week he returned to live with her, she washed his clothes and otherwise covered the costs of caring for him at home.

At the hearing, the father clarified he was not claiming the son lived with him, but that the child no longer lived with his mother. The AAT found the mother’s support of her son, who was on low wages and at the start of his career, meant there was no change in care.

The name of both the town and the facility where the child resided were removed from the decision before publishing as these details could potentially identify him.

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