This topic provides information about:
An individual is required to take reasonable maintenance action for a child if they are entitled to apply for maintenance (184.108.40.206) for the child and the Secretary considers that it is reasonable that they should take this action. This requirement also applies to the individual's current partner (1.1.P.30) if the partner is entitled to apply for maintenance for the child. If the individual or their partner does not meet this requirement, only the base rate (1.1.B.15) of FTB Part A is payable in respect of the child and the child is not included for RA purposes.
For information about situations where the Secretary may consider that it is not reasonable for a person to take maintenance action even though they may be expected to do so, refer to 220.127.116.11.
Act reference: FAAct Schedule 1 clause 10 Effect of maintenance rights
To take reasonable maintenance action the individual needs to do one of the following:
If an individual has one of the above actions in progress, they meet the maintenance action test during the period of time their action is still in progress. Further action to complete maintenance action may be required (refer to policy reference below).
Policy reference: FA Guide 18.104.22.168 Maintenance Action in Progress, 22.214.171.124 Reasonable Maintenance Action Completed, 126.96.36.199 Payer is Overseas, 188.8.131.52 Maintenance Action Test Reviews, 184.108.40.206 Role of the ISO & Social Worker
Instalment (1.1.I.100) and past period (1.1.P.60) individuals have 13 weeks to take reasonable action to obtain maintenance for the child. After 13 weeks, if the maintenance action test is not met, the individual will be paid base rate of FTB Part A. The 13 week period relates to when the individual first became entitled to apply for maintenance. The 13 week period would therefore apply from the later of:
Example: Jane is an Australian citizen who travels overseas. She enters into a relationship while overseas and gives birth to a child as a result of that relationship. Jane lives with her partner and child overseas for 4 years before separating from her partner and returning to Australia, having been offered a job in Australia. The father is residing in a country that has a reciprocal arrangement with Australia, which does allow Jane to seek maintenance from him, however Jane decides not to pursue this. Jane also decides not to claim FTB straight away after her return, as her anticipated income is too high and she believes she would not be eligible. However, Jane's new employment contract is subsequently withdrawn and she then claims FTB 10 weeks after her return to Australia. As Jane has been able to apply for maintenance through the CSA since her return to Australia, she only has 3 weeks remaining to take reasonable action to obtain maintenance, without her rate being reduced to the base rate of FTB Part A.
Where an individual becomes eligible for FTB after they became entitled to apply for maintenance, a shorter grace period may apply from after the individual becomes eligible for FTB. Eligibility for the grace period in these situations and the length of the grace period would depend on the circumstances of the case.
If the FAO subsequently becomes aware that a person was entitled to maintenance from an earlier date but had not applied at the time and an exemption (e.g. fear of violence) was not appropriate, an FTB Part A debt may arise due to the person not taking reasonable maintenance action. However, in situations where a person did not take maintenance action (even though they were entitled to do so) because of maladministration by the FAO or CSA (e.g. the FAO/CSA provided incorrect information which caused the person to not apply for maintenance for an earlier period) the person's failure to take action could be considered 'reasonable' in the circumstances. The FAO should consider each case individually and decide whether the person's inaction was reasonable in the circumstances. If the FAO decides that the person's inaction was reasonable:
From 1 January 2012, the income tested maximum rate of FTB for children aged 16-19 who are senior secondary school children (1.1.S.27) was increased in line with the income tested maximum rate payable for 13-15 year olds. As a result, maintenance income received for these children will be taken into account under the maintenance income test and these individuals will be expected to apply for maintenance if one of the events mentioned under the 'Period of grace to take maintenance action' section above has occurred and the child is under 18. Where one of these above events has already occurred prior to 1 October 2011 and the child has already turned 16 and did not turn 18 prior to 1 January 2012, the individual is expected to have taken maintenance action by 1 January 2012. If maintenance action was not taken by 1 January 2012, this will mean failure of the maintenance action test and the individual's FTB Part A will be reduced to the base rate for the affected child.
Where an individual experienced one of the above events between 1 October 2011 and 31 December 2011 and has care of an FTB child over the age of 16, they have the usual 13 week period from the date of that event to take maintenance action. If an event occurs less than 13 weeks before the child's 18th birthday and maintenance action is not taken before the child turns 18, the individual will not fail the maintenance action test.
If an individual receiving FTB by instalments applies for an exemption from the requirement to take reasonable action, they are taken to satisfy the maintenance action test until a decision is made.
If the request for an exemption is refused and the 13 week grace period has ended, the individual has 14 days from the date they are advised of the decision to take reasonable maintenance action. If the individual fails to attend an interview relating to the request for exemption, their rate of FTB Part A must be reduced to the base rate (1.1.B.10) from the end of the original 13 week grace period unless they are granted an exemption.
Where an individual who claims FTB for a past period requests an exemption from the requirement to take maintenance action, an exemption may be granted and backdated depending on the circumstances in each case.
Last reviewed: 30 April 2012