Family Tax Benefit

Disputed care interim periods

An interim period may apply if care is disputed. This when parents stop following a written care agreement and disagree with that change.

Disputed care

Your percentage of care affects how much child support you pay or receive. It can also affect how much Family Tax Benefit (FTB) you may receive. In most cases, we use the amount of care each parent provides to work out your percentage of care.

Either parent can dispute their care percentage. If this happens we may not use the amount of care each parent is providing. Instead, we may use the amount of care set by a written care arrangement for an interim period.

There is a dispute in care if:

  • there’s a written care arrangement that states how much care each parent should provide, and
  • care isn’t occurring in line with the written care arrangement, and
  • the parent with reduced care is taking reasonable action to have the written care arrangement complied with

A person has reduced care if they are providing less care than the written care arrangement states.

Written care arrangements

A written care arrangement can be a:

  • court order that states how much care each parent will provide
  • parenting plan, or
  • written care agreement made by the parents

Interim periods

An interim period can be between 4 and 52 weeks long. We use the amount of care in the written care arrangement during the interim period. We use the actual amount of care each parent provides when the interim care period ends.

The type of written care arrangement helps us work out the length of the interim period. We also consider how long the arrangement had been in place when the disputed care change occurred.

In some cases, the length of the interim period may reduce. This can happen when the person with increased care participates in family dispute resolution (FDR). Increased care means more care than the written care arrangement states.

Reasonable action

An interim period may apply when the parent with reduced care takes reasonable action to have the care arrangement followed.

Taking reasonable action can include:

  • genuine negotiations with the other parent to comply with the care arrangement
  • filing an application in a court to have an order enforced, or
  • attending an appointment at a family relationship centre

Sometimes, the interim period may be shorter. An interim period may be shorter if the parent with increased care takes reasonable action to participate in FDR.

Read more about FDR on the Attorney-General’s Department website.

Stopping reasonable action

If the parent with reduced care stops taking reasonable action, the interim period will end.

If the parent with increased care stops taking reasonable action, we may extend the interim period. The interim period can also restart if it ends.

Court orders

The interim period will start on the day the care changed. The interim period will end on the later of these dates:

  • the 52 week period starting on the day the court order commenced
  • 14 weeks after the day the care changed - if the person with increased care is taking reasonable action within a reasonable period, or
  • 26 weeks after the day the care changed if the person with increased care doesn’t take reasonable action

If reasonable action is taken but not within a reasonable period, the interim period will end 14 weeks after the action started.

Example - disputing a court order

Rachel and James have a son, Ethan. They have a court order for the amount of care each of them provides. The court order begins on 1 September 2018 states that Ethan lives with Rachel 50% of the time, and with James the other 50% of the time.

On 15 December 2018, James doesn’t allow Ethan to return to Rachel’s care.

Rachel takes ongoing reasonable action in order to get James to comply with the court order. James doesn’t take reasonable action to participate in FDR.

The interim period starts on 15 December 2018.

The interim period will end on the later of:

  • 52 weeks after the court order started - 30 August 2019
  • 26 weeks after the day the care changed - 14 June 2019

The interim period ends on 30 August 2019, which is 52 weeks after the court order started.

The length of the interim period won’t change if James takes reasonable action to participate in FDR.

Parenting plans and written care agreements

The interim period will start on the day the care changed.

The day the interim period ends depends on:

  • when the disputed care change occurs, and
  • when the parenting plan or written agreement started

If care changes within 48 weeks of a parenting plan or written care agreement starting

The interim period will end at the earlier of:

  • the 14 weeks after the day the care changed, or
  • the 52 week period starting on the day the arrangement began. This will only happen if the person with increased care is taking reasonable action within a reasonable period.

If care changes after 48 weeks of the parenting plan or written care agreement starting

In this case, the interim period will end:

  • 4 weeks after the day the care changed, or
  • 14 weeks after the day the care changed

It will only be 4 weeks if the person with increased care is taking reasonable action within a reasonable period.

If reasonable action is taken but not within a reasonable period, the interim period will end 4 weeks after the action started.

Example - reasonable action to comply over 48 weeks

Robert and Jenny have a parenting plan for their daughter Ella. The parenting plan was in place 2 years ago. Under the plan, Ella lives with Robert 70% of the time, and with Jenny 30% of the time.

On 3 October 2018, Jenny doesn’t allow Ella to return to Robert’s care.

Robert takes ongoing reasonable action to have the parenting plan complied with.

Jenny arranges FDR meetings for her and Robert at a Family Relationship Centre.

The interim period begins on 3 October 2018. As their parenting plan is more than 48 weeks old and Jenny’s taking reasonable action to participate in FDR, the interim period ends on 30 October 2018.

If Jenny stops taking reasonable action within 14 weeks of the care change, we’ll extend the interim period. It can also restart if it has ended. The interim period would then end on 8 January 2019.

Child support in Western Australia

Interim periods are different where a child lives in WA and their parents were never married. In these cases:

  • interim periods are usually 14 weeks long
  • interim periods can be up to 26 weeks in special circumstances
  • the parent with reduced care must take reasonable action to have the care arrangement followed
  • the type of care arrangement doesn’t change the length of the interim period
  • how long the care arrangement has been in place doesn’t change the length of the interim period, and
  • the length of the interim period doesn’t change if the parent with increased care takes reasonable action to participate in FDR

Changed care arrangements

Changes to your circumstances could affect your payments. We need to know about any:

You can tell us about a change using your Child Support online account through myGov.

If a child’s care arrangements change, you need to tell us as soon as possible. You can contact us or complete the details of your child’s care arrangements form.

If you pay or receive child support, and also receive FTB, you only have to tell us once. You don’t have to tell both Child Support and Centrelink.

Read more about child support and your FTB Part A.

Reviews and appeals

You don’t have to agree with a decision we’ve made. If you don’t, you may be able to ask for a review of the decision.

Read more about reviews and appeals.

Page last updated: 24 May 2018