A pilot project is planned for January by the national Child Support Agency to contract private investigators who will gather evidence against parents - mostly fathers - who live luxurious lifestyles but avoid child support payments.
Private investigators using video and photographic evidence will complement the 120 office-bound financial investigators who have already been employed this year by the CSA as part of a $162 million crackdown on defaulting dads and mums.
"Sometimes parents don't co-operate with us and that's when we do extensive investigative work," CSA compliance manager Angela Tillmanns said. "And in these cases we could ask for help from private investigators.
"It's important these people are investigated and pay their fair share of child support."
She said child support payments were based on a parent's taxable income but people had worked out how to reduce that amount to reduce their payments.
This included using offshore banks, salary sacrificing and dealing in cash.
The CSA said private investigators would work across Australia and targets could include the estimated 225,000 parents who owe $900 million in unpaid child support. More than 15,000 of those parents live in SA.
Recent Australia-wide CSA investigations into 419 child support cases increased support payments by $2.3 million. State CSA manager Bill Volkers said the agency had a strong focus on parents who deliberately avoided paying the correct amount of child support.
"In the new year the CSA will be considering the use of private investigators and how they may be able to assist us in ensuring parents meet their child support," he said.
"Such a measure will be of assistance in circumstances where parents'
lifestyles obviously do not match financial information available and there is no other way to obtain such information."
Use of private investigators has been prompted in part by the embarrassment the Federal Government has experienced after defaulting dads have been exposed by the media.
"The Government wants to be able to get that type of information (on
individuals) before it appears on current affairs programs," Ms Tillmanns said.
Mums as well as dads could be targeted by private investigators, according to the CSA.
"Once a parent (with child custody) earns more than $40,000 a year it impacts on how much the other parent pays in child support," she said.
"But some parents' income remains mysteriously below the $40,000 cap for years, so we will look at ways to investigate their real financial wealth."
Reference source: The Sunday Mail (Adelaide) 31 December 2006