Can child support still be collected when the other party is overseas?

Date: Jan 06, 2013
Document Type: Newsletter

In a world where international connectivity and travel has never been easier – or cheaper – the  ability for people to move trans-nationally can be as simple as a mouse click away. However, the flipside with the ease in which people are able to traverse across nations can lead to a situation where one party who is subject to a maintenance order or child support, is overseas, which may then cause potential difficulties for anyone who is supposed to receive maintenance. So if a situation does arise where a maintenance order, agreement or child support payment is required, but both parties live in different countries: What happens in such a scenario? Well, laws do exist in such an occurrence which this piece will attempt to cover.

The law

First, all is not lost if someone in Australia wishes to enforce a maintenance order, agreement or child support obligation against another person who is living overseas, or alternatively, an agreement or an order was made overseas, and the party who is obliged to pay actually resides here in Australia. In either scenario, the important thing in regards to a maintenance order, agreement or child support obligation, is that the parties reside in reciprocal jurisdictions to allow such payments to be enforceable, and is given effect via s 124 of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (Cth) (the Act).

It’s important to reemphasise the point that orders made in a different country, must be between reciprocating jurisdictions, which would then allow the order to be registered in Australia with the Child Support Agency (CSA).

Any reader who is interested in finding out what the reciprocal jurisdictions are, can do so under Regulation 3A of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Regulations 1988 (Cth)(the Regulations).

What types of maintenance orders can the Child Support Registrar accept?

The types of registrable overseas maintenance liabilities that the Child Support Registrar is able to accept, can be found in s 18A of the Act and it will be considered as a liability if it is:

  • a liability of a parent or step parent of a child to pay a periodic amount for the maintenance of the child;
  • a liability of a party to a marriage to pay a periodic amount for the maintenance of the other party to the marriage;
  • an overseas maintenance liability.

In instances where maintenance is one of an overseas liability, the Commonwealth is the only body that has the power to enforce any child support debts if the person required to make a payment resides overseas.

How can an application be made for maintenance if the payer is overseas?

If a person wishes to make an application to have an overseas maintenance agreement or child support assessment enforced in Australia, they must make an application to the Child Support Registrar, who will then make an application to either a judicial or administrative body in the reciprocal jurisdiction, specifying the amount owing via a certificate, and any other documentation required by the reciprocal jurisdiction.

What actions can be taken if a person has a child support liability and is about to go overseas?

The Child Support Registrar is able to make an order preventing a person from leaving the country if they have a child support liability, and has not made satisfactory arrangements for payment, and has persistently failed to pay child support without reasonable grounds.

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