In this day and age, even since the advent of COVID-19, it is much easier for people to reside outside of their country of origin. However, the ease of moving internationally poses a challenge for people who are separated or divorced from their former spouse and have children that they need to financially support. This support is commonly referred to as child support.
If you are in this situation, receiving or paying for child support is a complicated area due to varying arrangements and policies of different countries. However, you should know that there are laws in Australia that will help you get child support if you are the ‘receiving parent’ and if you are the ‘paying parent’, Services Australia (formerly known as the Child Support Agency) can help with the delivery of child support payments. This article will help you understand how child support works and what laws and policies are in place regarding child support if one parent lives outside of Australia.
How child support works
There are four ways to determine who pays child support. The first is when parents apply for child support to Services Australia. Services Australia uses a formula and undertakes an assessment that takes into consideration matters such as the income of the parents, the ages of the children and the amount of time that the children will be in each parent’s care.
The second way to determine child support is for the parents to negotiate the child support amount themselves and put a Binding or Limited Child Support Agreement in place. This way, the parents can decide what kind of child support will be paid to one party and how it will be paid.
The third way is to apply to the Court for either child support departure orders or child maintenance orders. Child support departure orders can only be made if special circumstances exist and child maintenance orders can only be made if the parents are not eligible to apply for a child support assessment to issue. As to the latter, this might occur if neither parent lives in Australia.
Alternatively, parents may already have child support arrangements in place from an overseas country. There are steps which parents may be able to take to have the overseas arrangement registered, enforced and varied in Australia, which will depend on which country the arrangement was made and the family’s particular circumstances.
If a parent lives overseas
If one parent and the child/ren live in Australia and the other parent lives outside of Australia, you can contact Services Australia to apply for a child support assessment or if there is child support owing, register a maintenance liability. Then the Services Australia can set about organising the collection and transfer of the child support now and into the future, as long as the person is living in a reciprocating jurisdiction. That is, countries that the Australian Government has arrangements with, relating to child support.
For people who are living outside of Australia, there are a number of ways that they can apply for a child support assessment.
- If you are the parent receiving the child support payments and you are outside of Australia, you can apply to Services Australia to get child support from the other parent who is living in Australia. Through this application, you can get the maintenance authority in your country to get an Australian child support assessment and to register and collect a maintenance liability made outside of Australia.
- If you are a non-parent carer of the child and you live in a reciprocating jurisdiction, you can apply for child support if at least one of the parents lives in Australia.
- If you are the paying parent, you can apply to pay child support in three ways: by using the International application for child support assessment form, by calling Services Australia’s international phone number or through the maintenance authority of the country where you live.
- If you do not live in a reciprocating jurisdiction, you can apply directly to Services Australia only if the other parent is a resident of Australia and the child is an Australian citizen, lives in Australia on the day that you apply for the assessment and normally resides there.
When Services Australia issue a child support assessment, there are two ways you can be paid. First, you can enter a private collection agreement with the other parent which means that you will handle the payment of child support between yourselves and Services Australia will not be involved in the collection of any of the payments.
Alternatively, you can ask Services Australia to handle the collection of the payments on your behalf. If the paying parent agrees, the Agency can make arrangements for both parties to make regular payments through them. To make or receive payments outside of Australia, then ideally, the paying and receiving parent should be in reciprocating jurisdictions.
As set out above, if parents are not eligible to apply for a child support assessment or they have reached agreement between themselves regarding the level of child support to be paid, they should seek legal advice from an experienced family law practitioner about what options might be available to them to address the financial assistance for their children.
What happens if the parent living overseas does not pay child support?
If a parent does not agree with the child support assessment or does not want to make any payments, Services Australia has some arrangements in place with reciprocating jurisdictions where they can ask that country to collect the child support payment on behalf of Services Australia.
Services Australia can recover any child support debt by taking money from the paying parent’s tax returns or making salary deductions. The problem with collecting child support payments from paying parents who are living outside Australia is that the reciprocating jurisdiction of the country where they live might not have the same ability to collect payments as compared to Services Australia.
If the paying parent has a child support debt and visits the child in Australia, Services Australia has the power to make a departure prohibition order that will prevent them from leaving Australia until their debt is paid.
There may also be options available to parties to apply through the Court if a parent is not paying any child support and these options will depend on the particular circumstances of the case.
How family lawyers can assist with international child support issues
Successful outcomes for determining child support starts with professional advice. International child support issues can be complicated and having the expertise of a family lawyer who has experience in handling international family law issues is essential in overcoming the difficult situation in the most effective manner.
Phillips Family Law is an award winning Family Law practice serving clients across Australia and abroad. Regardless of where you are in your decision making process, we can make you aware of your options. To discuss your situation confidentially phone (07) 3007 9898 or secure a time by clicking here.
Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information however it does not substitute legal advice or opinion. Information is best used in conjunction with legal advice from an experienced member of our team.