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Going to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal


You can appeal most decisions made by the Department of Human Services: Child Support (“Child Support”) to the Social SecurityAppeal Tribunal (SSAT). Appeals in child support matters must be made within 28 days. The Child Support Service of Legal Aid NSW can give you advice about this. This Fact Sheet explains the steps you can take. If you are unsure about any of these steps, please contact us to make an appointment.

How do I lodge an appeal?

You can lodge your appeal with the SSAT over the telephone on 1800 011 140, in writing or in person at an SSAT office or any office of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services. These offices can provide an appeal form or it can be printed from the SSAT website:www.ssat.gov.au

It does not cost anything to appeal to the SSAT.

What if it is over 28 days since the Child Support ’s decision?

You can apply for an extension of time at the same time as lodging your appeal to the SSAT. If you do this, you must apply in writing and you must provide reasons for your delay in applying to the SSAT. The appeal is placed on hold until a decision is made about granting the extension of time. If the SSAT refuses to grant an extension of time, you can appeal the refusal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). This must be done within 28 days of receiving the SSAT decision about the extension of time.

What happens when the SSAT receives my appeal?

You will receive a letter from an SSAT case manager providing you with information about the SSAT process. A letter will also be sent to the other parent to notify them of your appeal. The Child Support is also notified and must provide a copy of its decision and other relevant documents to the SSAT and to each parent. The SSAT will then arrange a date for the hearing.

What if the other parent has appealed to the SSAT?

If the other parent appeals to the SSAT, the SSAT will write to you and give you the opportunity to participate by providing evidence and attending the hearing. It is important to be involved so that the SSAT can hear your side of the story. Also, if you choose not to participate you may lose your right to appeal against the decision once it is made.

Providing evidence to the SSAT
You should send any documents or written material you want the SSAT to consider promptly (usually at least 14 days before the hearing). Copies of these documents will be sent to the other parent. You should receive copies of any documents the other parent sends to the SSAT.

What should I do to prepare for the hearing?

Reading over the Child Support documents will help you become familiar with the issues in the appeal.

You may also find it helpful to write down a list of points that you would like to discuss in the hearing. You may provide additional information to the SSAT up to 14 days before the hearing. Copies will be sent to the other parent and the Child Support.

What happens at the hearing?

A SSAT hearing is not as formal as a court hearing and is held in private. It is more like a meeting between the SSAT members, the parents and occasionally a Child Support representative. The members direct the hearing and give each party an opportunity to explain their situation.

The following points can also be made about the SSAT hearings:

  • Generally, hearings are held at SSAT offices with each parent attending in person and making oral submissions.
  • Hearings can also be conducted by telephone, for example if a party lives in a remote area.
  • The members will ask each party questions to clarify issues or to obtain any information they need to make the decision.
  • You can ask questions about the other party’s evidence but your questions must be directed to the SSAT members.
  • The SSAT can require third parties to attend or produce documents if necessary for making its decision. The proceedings can also be adjourned for this purpose.
  • Occasionally, the SSAT will decide the appeal on documents only, without talking to the parties.
  • The SSAT may make a direction not to disclose information obtained during the hearing to a person who is not a party.

Can a lawyer represent me?

You may have a legal representative or support person assist you at the SSAT but the SSAT must approve thisat least 14 daysbefore the hearing.

How will the SSAT make its decision?

The SSAT has the same decision-making powers as the original Child Support decision maker. In making the decision, the SSAT must consider the available information and apply the relevant child support legislation. It may decide to do any of the following:

  • Confirm the original Child Support decision
  • Vary the original decision
  • Set aside the original decision and replace it with a new decision
  • Set aside the original decision and send the matter back to Child Support to reconsider.

The SSAT is to advise parties in writing of its decision within 14 days of the hearing. However, they may adjourn the matter if necessary, for example to allow a party to provide additional information. You will be notified in writing of an adjournment and given an opportunity to respond to any new information.

What can I do if I’m not happy with the SSAT decision?

You have a right to appeal a SSAT decision to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court but only on a question of law, not a dispute about the facts. You must file a Notice of Appeal with the Court within 28 days from when you receive the SSAT decision.

It is important that you obtain legal advice if you are considering appealing an SSAT decision. General information about the process of an appeal is available on the Federal Circuit Court website.

If the SSAT decision relates to how much care you (or the other parent) have of the children, you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). This appeal must be lodged within 28 days.

Is legal aid available for SSAT matters?

Legal aid is available from Legal Aid NSW to the paying and carer parent for an appeal or response to the SSAT. To qualify for legal aid, the applicant for legal aid must satisfy a means and merit test and show that he/she is unable to adequately represent themselves before the SSAT.

Child Support Service Legal Aid NSW

Level 5, 91 Phillip Street,
Parramatta NSW 2150

PO Box 165, Parramatta NSW 2124
Ph: (02)9633 9916
or Toll free(regional): 1800 451 784
Fax: (02) 9689 1082
Email: admin.css@legalaid.nsw.gov.au

This fact sheet provides basic information only and is not a substitute for legal advice. If you are likely to be involved in court proceedings or legal action, you should get advice from a lawyer. Lawyers can be obtained privately, through Legal Aid NSW or at Community Legal Centres. The Child Support Service of Legal Aid NSW may also be able to provide you with advice.

Order free brochures online at
or email publications@legalaid.nsw.gov.au
or call 02 9219 5028.

August 2014