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Child support debts threaten parents' holidays

Two articles on this issue.

Child support debts threaten parents' holidays

ABC News
5 December 2010

Child support debts threaten parents' holidays

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek has warned separated parents planning an overseas trip this Christmas they may be prevented from leaving Australia if they owe child support.

Ms Plibersek says the Child Support Agency (CSA) has the power to issue Departure Prohibition Orders to parents with overdue payments who refuse to cooperate with the agency to repay the debt.

"The Gillard Labor Government is committed to ensuring that children with separated parents are getting the financial support they need," she said in a statement.

"Christmas can be a difficult time for separated families, not only emotionally, but financially too. So if parents have an outstanding debt they can ring the Child Support Agency and talk through their options."

The CSA currently has 841 departure orders in place. Ms Plibersek says $3.36 million was collected last financial year through 183 issued departure orders.

She says some separated parents with significant debts had refused multiple opportunities offered by the agency to make a payment arrangement.

"We would prefer not to spoil anyone's holiday plans, but when it comes to children who have gone without payments for a significant period of time, the agency has no choice but to issue these orders," she said.

"The good news is the number and proportion of actively paying parents without a child support debt is steadily increasing."

Ms Plibersek said the departure orders were one of several measures the agency used to recoups money from non-compliant parents.

Parents who have overdue child support and need to travel overseas for work or personal reasons are being urged to contact the CSA to discuss a suitable payment arrangement.


Parents hit by travel bans in child support crackdown

The Sun-Herald (Sydney)
5 December 2010

Parents hit by travel bans in child support crackdown
By Jim O'Rourke

More than 800 separated parents have been hit with travel bans because they are behind with their child support payments.

The federal government's Child Support Agency is targeting defaulting parents planning to travel overseas this Christmas.

"The Gillard Labor government is committed to ensuring that children with separated parents are getting the financial support they need," Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek said.

The crackdown comes as new figures show the nation's divorce rate jumped 5 per cent last year, the first increase since 2001. Relationship experts have linked the spike to the economic downturn.

There are now 841 departure prohibition orders banning travel for persistent payment evaders.

Fathers account for about 90 per cent of parents in arrears.

More than $3.3 million in unpaid child maintenance was recouped last financial year by stopping debtors from leaving the country. Many tipoffs are from former partners.

When an order is issued, Australian Federal Police and Customs officers may prevent a person from leaving the country, remove them from a ship or aircraft, or prevent boarding.

At June 30 there was $869 million in outstanding child support payments owed by Australian parents, a $44 million increase on the previous 12 months.

About $250 million was owed by NSW parents.

The government can deduct overdue money from tax refunds, wages and salaries and welfare payments. It also uses private detectives to spy on parents suspected of lying about their income to reduce their obligations.

The agency recently signed a new agreement with the Australian Tax Office to crack down on separated parents who fail to lodge tax returns. In the past four years the agency has collected $82 million by intercepting tax returns from parents with a child support debt.

Ms Plibersek said: "We would prefer not to spoil anyone's holiday plans but when it comes to children who have gone without payments for a significant period of time, the agency has no choice but to issue these orders."

In 2009-10 the CSA worked with separated parents to transfer a total $2.98 billion to financially support more than 1.19 million children.

Phil York, spokesman for mens' support group Dads in Distress, said it is regularly contacted by fathers with child support payment issues.

"It's a really difficult area and certainly there are both men and women who have an accrued debt and who don't think it is important, but it is obviously important to financially support your children as far as Dads in Distress is concerned."

Mr York encouraged parents who had fallen behind with their child support payments to contact the CSA to work out an appropriate payment plan.

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