International child support in Australia
The collection of child support from a parent living overseas can be extremely challenging. It can be difficult to collect international child support in Australia from someone living overseas.
If the other parent lives outside of Australia, there are some circumstances in which you can apply for a child support assessment or register a maintenance liability made outside of Australia. The country to which the other parent has relocated is very important in terms of the mechanisms available to register and collect child support.
A number of countries are what’s referred to as reciprocating jurisdictions. These countries will recognise and enforce Australian Child support assessments if the paying parent lives in that country. If you live in a reciprocating jurisdiction, and you are the parent entitled to receive child support, you can also apply for an administrative child support assessment. An application must be submitted with the overseas authority in the country you reside in, then that country must send the application to Services Australia.
Surprisingly, countries very close to Australia who many of us would regard as “our island neighbours” such as Samoa and the Cook Islands are excluded jurisdictions. The Australian and New Zealand governments have entered into an agreement to facilitate the collection of child support debts under the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand on Child and Spousal Maintenance.
Australia is also a Contracting State to the 1973 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations, which applies to both spousal and child support obligations. This establishes reciprocal agreements with the other Contracting States to recognise and enforce maintenance decisions made by judicial or administrative authorities in Convention countries.
Australia and the USA have an Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America for the Enforcement of Maintenance (Support) Obligations, which provides for the enforcement of each State’s court orders and administrative assessments, the establishment of maintenance decisions, administrative assistance and sharing information between authorities.
Finally, there is the United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (UNCRAM). You can apply to a UNCRAM State where the liable parent resides for that State to establish a maintenance liability (child support debt) on their behalf. You can do this where the relevant overseas State is not a reciprocating State but is a UNCRAM State.
So it is extremely important to obtain tailored advice to your specific circumstances from an international child support lawyer, irrespective of whether you are the parent entitled to child support or the paying parent.
If the paying parent does not make the payments, Services Australia (through arrangements with reciprocating jurisdictions) can ask that country to collect the child support payments on behalf of Services Australia.
Services Australia can recover a child support debt by taking money from the paying parent’s tax returns, or by deducting funds from their salary. However, the reciprocating jurisdiction may not have the same ability to collect payments as Services Australia does.
If the paying parent has a child support debt and returns to Australia, Services Australia has the power to make a departure prohibition order which restrains that person from leaving Australia until that debt has been paid. The Child Support Registrar can make a departure prohibition order if the person has a child support liability, they have not made satisfactory arrangements for payment, they have persistently and without reasonable grounds failed to pay their child support debts, and it is desirable to make an order not allowing that person to leave without discharging their child support debt. If you know that the other parent is relocating overseas and the country to which they are relocating, it is sensible to obtain advice before they leave Australia. It may be possible to negotiate a Child Support Agreement before they leave Australia, especially if it is for a fixed period of time during their relocation. If you intend on living overseas for a period of time or even if you are relocating permanently, obtain advice from an international child support lawyer before you leave Australia about the steps you can take to secure child support.
Related articles: Child Support: Private Agreements
DDCS Lawyers specialise in all aspects of family law and can help guide you with your international child support needs. If you would like assistance, contact our team on (02) 6212 7600 to book a consultation.