In Australia, both parents have a duty to support their children, both emotionally and financially. However, what happens if one parents either lives overseas or decides to relocate overseas after separation? It can be a difficult and time-consuming process collecting payments from an ex-spouse in Australia, let alone outside Australia, and the rules for collecting child support do vary depending on the country. Here’s everything you need to know about collecting child support if your ex-spouse lives overseas.
Does the Parent Need to Pay Child Support Overseas?
Typically, a parent must continue to pay child support, even if they live or are moving overseas. In fact, child support is a debt owed to the Commonwealth, not the receiving parent. The receiving parent living in Australia can apply for an administrative assessment in order to receive these payments.
Child support from an overseas parent can be enforced if that parent lives in a reciprocating country, or “reciprocal jurisdiction”. Australia has reciprocal arrangements with many countries that have agreed to assist with enforcing child support obligations through Services Australia and their overseas equivalent. The list of reciprocal countries is quite extensive.
In order for the child support to be collected from one of these reciprocating countries, there must first be a child support assessment. Once the assessment as been made and forwarded on to the correct overseas agency for collection, it is up to the other country to recognise the child support assessment and take further action. How that country collects the child support payment is unique to them. In some cases, only the court system can order a parent to pay child support.
What if the Parent Does Not Live in a Reciprocal Jurisdiction?
There may be instances where a country may be a reciprocal jurisdiction, but cannot accept an administrative assessment through Services Australia. These countries are referred to as excluded jurisdictions. A parent may be able to make a Court Order for child support which can then be sent to a country. Countries that are excluded jurisdictions include:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Cook Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Samoa (not American Samoa)
- Yukon, Canada.
Countries that are not considered excluded jurisdictions or reciprocal jurisdictions are referred to as a non-reciprocal jurisdiction. These countries cannot accept a child support assessment or a Court Order. It is best to speak to our team or Services Australia about your options.
How Can a Parent Enforce A Child Support Assessment Overseas?
In most cases, the overseas parent will agree to make regular payments. However, if the parent does not agree to pay child support while living overseas, Services Australia has a range of powers to enforce the collection of this debt. These include:
- Arranging a salary deduction from the paying parent (if the income is in Australia);
- Seizing and intercepting Australian tax refunds;
- Deducting payments from Australian social security pensions;
- Preventing the parent from leaving Australia (if they haven’t moved already) with a Departure Prohibition Order; or
- Seeking enforcement through the Federal Court Circuit.
Enforcing child support ultimately depends on whether or not the country is a reciprocating jurisdiction. It is best for Services Australia to liaise with their overseas equivalent. Also, if the parent cannot be located, Services Australia may not be able to take any further action.
If the paying parent hasn’t already moved overseas, under Section 72D of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act, the Registrar can make a Departure Prohibition Order if:
- The parent has child support liability;
2. The parent has not made arrangements satisfactory to the Registrar for the liability to be wholly discharged;
3. The Registrar is satisfied that the parent has persistently and without reasonable grounds failed to pay child support; and
4. The Registrar believes on reasonable grounds that it is beneficial to make a prohibition order for the purpose of ensuring that the parent does not depart Australia for a foreign country without discharging the child support liability or making arrangements satisfactory to the Registrar for the child support liability to be wholly discharged.
What if the Parent Living Overseas is After Child Support Payments?
If the parent expecting child support payments decides to move overseas, Services Australia can assist with collecting these payments for that parent. Of course, collecting these child support payments depends on the agreement Australia has with the overseas country. These payments can be transferred to the overseas maintenance authority, and then to the receiving parent.
Need Assistance With Collecting Child Support from an Overseas Parent?
You may wish to seek advice from an expert family lawyer regarding child support, especially child support from a parent who lives overseas. Our team at Emerson Family Law have experience handling both domestic and international family law issues around divorce, child support and spouse support payments. Please get in touch with our team to see how we can assist.