A recent article in a nationwide newspaper highlighted the issues some parents are having when they try and travel overseas while they have an unresolved child support debt.
Under the Child Support Registration and Collection Act (the Act) the Registrar of the Child Support Agency has the power to make a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO) if it is satisfied that the paying parent has an overdue child support debt and refuses to work with the agency to pay the debt and plans to travel overseas.
A DPO means that parents are literally stopped at the gate of airports and given an ultimatum of either paying their outstanding debt or not leaving the country.
Making a DPO
The legislation specifies four conditions that must be satisfied for the Registrar to exercise his discretion to make a DPO. These conditions are:-
- the relevant person has a child support liability,
- the relevant person has not made satisfactory arrangements to wholly discharge the liability,
- the Registrar is satisfied that the relevant person has persistently and without reasonable grounds failed to pay the child support debt, and
- the Registrar considers it is desirable to make such an order to ensure that the relevant person does not leave Australia without wholly discharging the liability or making the satisfactory arrangements to do so.
Unpaid child support is a growing problem and in the 2016-2017 year there were 333 DPO’s made. In Queensland, 69 parents have been stopped in this financial year as they have attempted to leave the country.
Many parents who receive a ban had debts worth tens of thousands of dollars and had repeatedly ignored attempts by the department to enter a repayment plan.
The federal government believes that the bans are effective, with a record $10.4 million in outstanding debt recovered this financial year.
The government can also recover money by taking parents to court and withholding tax refunds.
It is important that parents remember to keep the child support agency updated as to their income and parenting arrangements to avoid incurring a child support debt. It is also important that if a parent believes that they have been incorrectly assessed, that they go through the correct reassessment channels.
Our Family Lawyers can assist parents to understand their child support obligations and the reassessment options that may be available to them.
If you have an issue with child support, contact one of our Family Lawyers today.