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Disagreeing with a child support decision

Changes to this area of law
There have recently been changes to this area of law. We are working to review the information on this page and how these changes may affect you.  Contact us to get help.

If you disagree with a decision made by the Department of Human Services (Child Support), you can lodge a written objection with them to have the decision reviewed.

If you disagree with their response, you can appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – Social Services and Child Support (SSCS) Division.

If you disagree with the first decision, you may be able to applying to the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a second review or you may able the decision to appeal to the Federal Circuit Court.

If you are appealing a child support decision and you can’t afford to keep paying the required amount, you may need to apply for a stay order.

Objecting to a child support decision

If you disagree with a decision made by the Department of Human Services (Child Support) (DHS), you can lodge an objection with them to have the decision reviewed.

An objection must be in writing. For most child support decisions, you must lodge your objection within 28 days from when you received your decision letter (or 90 days if you live overseas).

Your objection will be reviewed by a DHS objections officer.

Visit the DHS website for more information about objecting to child support decisions.

Appealing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – SSCS Division

If you disagree with the DHS decision, you may be able to appeal the decision to Administrative Appeals Tribunal – Social Services and Child Support (SSCS) Division.

The SSCS Division appeal is quick, informal and free. You’re allowed to have a legal representative help you when your matter is heard by the SSCS Division. If you get legal representation, you must pay your own legal costs, even if you’re successful.

The  SSCS Division can review most objection decisions made by the DHS if that decision was made on or after 1 January 2007. If the objection decision was made in 2006 or earlier, you may need to apply to court.  Get legal advice.

Decisions that can be appealed include:

  • a change of assessment
  • the children’s level of care
  • income estimates
  • non-agency payments
  • 28 day time limit extension.

You have 28 days from the date of the DHS decision to appeal to the SSCS Division (or 90 days if you live overseas).

The SSCS Division can:

  • leave the decision unchanged (affirm)
  • change the decision (vary)
  • make a new decision
  • send the matter back to the DHS to reconsider some or all of the issues.

The  SSCS Division decision will usually be provided in writing, with the reasons for the decision being sent by post within 14 days of the hearing.

Sometimes the  SSCS Division will give the reasons for their decision in person (face-to-face or over the phone). A copy of the decision (without reasons) will then be sent by post within a few days of the hearing. If this occurs, you can ask for the reasons for decision in writing. You must do this within 14 days of the decision being made. A copy of the written reasons will then be provided.

Get legal advice.

If you disagree with the first decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – Social Security and Child Support (SSCS) Division, you may be able to applying to the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a second review or you may able the decision to appeal to the Federal Circuit Court.

Applying to the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

If you disagree with a decision in a first review by the SSCS Division, you can apply to the AAT for a second review of the decision in the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, if the decision is about:

  • a refusal of an extension of time to apply for first review
  • the percentage care for a child
  • the date a first review decision about the percentage care for a child will come into effect.

You must apply for a second review within 28 days from when you receive the written reasons for the decision of the SSCS Division, or, where no written reasons are given, within 28 days of receiving the decision of the SSCS Division. Get legal advice.

Federal Circuit Court

You may be able to appeal a SSCS Division decision to the Federal Circuit Court if the SSCS Division made an error of law (not an error about the facts).

You have 28 days from the notice of the decision of the SSCS Division to appeal to the Federal Circuit Court.

If you’re applying to change an administrative assessment, you may need to apply to the Federal Circuit Court in certain circumstances. Get legal advice.

Generally, you can apply to court where:

  • the time period to be reviewed is more than 18 months earlier, (a change of assessment application to the DHS can only be requested for a review of the last 18 months)
  • the DHS or SSCS Division have refused to make a decision because the matter is too complex, or
  • there are other child support matters already being heard by the court.

If the court makes an order, you need to notify the DHS and send them a copy of the order.

Stay orders

If you are appealing a child support decision and you can’t afford to keep paying the required amount, you may be able to apply to the Federal Circuit Court for a stay order.

A stay order is a temporary court order that may:

  • stop the DHS enforcing child support debts against you, or accumulating penalties for a particular time period, set a reduced child support rate to be paid, or leave it at the current rate where there has been an assessment for an increase, until the appeal is finalised.

Within 14 days of a stay order being made, you must:

  1. serve a copy of the order on the DHS
  2. complete a Child support or maintenance change form.

The stay order will have effect until:

  • the date stated in the stay order, or
  • your application to change the administrative assessment has been finalised (if no date is given).

A stay order doesn’t stop your legal obligation to pay the child support amount assessed by the DHS. If the court makes a stay order and your appeal is unsuccessful, you will still have to pay what you owed while the stay order was in place.

Get legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • you’ve been through the DHS’s internal review process and disagree with the decision
  • you are going to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Federal Circuit Court for a review
  • you disagree with an AAT – SSCS Division decision.

Get legal advice

We can give legal advice about child support matters.  

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice.

Caxton Community Legal Centre  gives specialist legal advice on child support for both carer parents and liable (paying) parents.

Gold Coast Legal Service gives legal advice on child support.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Department of Human Services (Child Support) administers the child support scheme to ensure parents contribute to the costs of raising children after separation. They give support and help to parents, including calculating, collecting and transferring child support payments.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal – Social Services and Child Support Division reviews decisions made by an officer of the Department of Human Services (Child Support).  

Federal Circuit Court makes decision about a range of issues including child support matters.

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