Family Law Library

Child Support Enforcement and Collection

Child Support Enforcement and Collection

1988 Changes

 Australia has come a long way when it comes to child support enforcement. In 1988, les than 30% of child maintenance was paid, and in response, Australia passed the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act. This required child support obligations to be registered, and thus become a debt to the Commonwealth. Prior to making this change, child support collection was a major issue for many Australians.

The legislation was passed in hopes of ensuring that children receive child support on a regular and timely basis. Fortunately, since the Act was passed non-payment issues have decreased significantly.

 

Registration

Child support, child maintenance, and spousal maintenance may all be registered for collection. Once registered, and the details entered into the child support register, the Child Support Agency (CSA) may enforce payment. When payment is not timely, the CSA reserves the right to impose penalties, which are retained by the CSA and not given to the payee.

This registration process is how the liability becomes a debt to the Commonwealth, and thus enforceable by the CSA. The CSA can enforce child support using the traditional court enforcement process.

 

Enforcement

A payee may enforce child support payments even if the debt has been registered for collection. As long as the payee notifies the Registrar in writing, 14 days before instituting the proceeding, the payee may sue and recover the debt due. A shorter notice period may be appropriate if there are exceptional circumstances.

Alternatively, the CSA may use the Federal Magistrates Court to enforce child support payments. Under these proceedings the court is not permitted to vary the child support liability or remit any penalties, the proceedings are strictly intended to be enforcement summons. The court is charged with the task of making an inquiry into the financial circumstances of the payer, and subsequently assessing his or her ability to pay the arrears.

Once the debt has been proved, the court may enforce the payment through a variety of methods, including garnishment, seizure of property, sequestration of the estate, sale of an interest in real property, or any other method necessary.

 

Collection Methods

The CSA has several methods it may use to enforce collection of child support payments. They are as follows.

  1. Auto-withholding. Under this method, payments owed are deducted from the payer’s salary directly by the employer.  Payers of child support may be averse to this sort of collection, as they would rather not share their child support liability with their employer, however it is considered an offence for an employer to discriminate based on such.
  2. Attachment of debts. The CSA has the authority to attach debts owed to the payer, including a tax refund. They may do this after fist issuing a notice to the debtor (one owing the payer money).
  3. Departure prohibition orders. Such orders prevent payers owing money from leaving the country.

In sum, there are several ways in which you can ensure any child support obligation due to your child will be paid. Thanks to the legislation passed in 1988, non-payment issues have been on the decline as it provides for easy and effective ways to enforce and collect payments owed.