When parents separate, it is very common for one parent to pay child support to the other to assist in financially supporting the children of the relationship. In lots of circumstances, the payment of child support is collected and administered through the Child Support Agency, an arm of the Department of Human Services in our Federal Government.
The overwhelming majority of parents do the right thing by their children and pay what is required of them, however there are some parents who try their utmost to skip out on their obligations to financially support their children. Thankfully, they are the exception rather than the rule. However, this does raise the question, how are parents trying to avoid paying child support and what are the consequences to those payers of child support who try to skip out on their obligations?
Recently, there has been an alarming number of websites and ‘agencies’ pop up that allege to help people avoid paying child support. Some of the ways in which they propose people do this include:
- increasing the time the payer of child support spends with the children;
- actively avoiding seeking pay increases at work, including saying no to overtime;
- becoming self-employed so that parties can control the income that is declared;
- donating to charity to increase the deductions in parties’ taxation returns (thereby lowering their income for the purposes of the child support calculations);
- having more children; and
- in the most extreme cases, fleeing the country to a non-participating jurisdiction.
The danger of these websites and ‘agencies’ is that the advice they offer is usually not legal advice and ignores the consequences of these actions (in our view it also just ignores the basic morality of providing financial support for children and fails to remind parents that there are no winners in avoiding child support responsibilities and it often is only the children who suffer as a result).
So what are the consequences of skipping out on child support obligations? And if you are receiving child support and think your former partner is engaging in any of the above conduct, what can you do to ensure your children are receiving the right amount of support?
In some cases, the payer of child support will simply just not pay their child support. But if this happens there are a variety of remedies available to ensure that child support, or arrears of child support are paid. These include:
- asking the Child Support Agency to have child support deducted by the employer directly from the payer’s wages, however this is dependent upon your child support arrangements being registered with the Child Support Agency;
- asking the Australian Taxation Office to deduct owed child support from any taxation returns owed to the payer of child support;
- asking the Child Support Agency to issue a Departure Prohibition Order. This means that the Agency can stop people who owe child support from leaving the country and it has been quite effective, there are recent cases where payer’s of child support have been stopped at the airport on their way to some luxury holiday only to be told that they won’t be going anywhere until they pay up. It’s the Government’s way of saying that if you can afford to go on a holiday, you can afford to support your children as you are legally required to; and
- as a last resort, initiating debt recovery proceedings in Court.
In other cases, as mentioned above, payer’s of child support may take some of the above step to minimise or avoid the amount of child support that they are required to pay. Thankfully there are lots of remedies available to the parties who are owed child support, the two main remedies include:
(a) Entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement whereby you specify and ‘lock in’ your child support arrangements however the downfall with this remedy is that it relies upon the consent of the other party; and
(b) Lodging an application for review with the Child Support Agency on the basis of special circumstances (such as a suspicion that there has been an under-reporting of income).
If you are experiencing difficulties with your child support arrangements, then please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced team here at Southern Waters Legal so that we can help you navigate the difficulties you are experiencing.