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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Child support cheats to be stopped from flying out on overseas holidays by Child Support Agency

Child support cheats to be stopped from flying out on overseas holidays by Child Support Agency

Child Support Agency records have been matched with Immigration Department data to catch jetsetting deadbeat parents.

At least 860 have so far been stopped from leaving the country.

Human Services Minister Chris Bowen said the Departure Prohibition Orders could be lifted only by clearing outstanding debts.

"Parents with overdue child support should arrange to pay it before they head overseas, to ensure their children are financially supported," Mr Bowen said.

"If the customer attempts to leave Australia while a DPO is in place, the customer will be stopped by the Australian Customs Service or the Australian Federal Police."

The bans are used for long-term maintenance evaders who have defied past attempts to get them to clear their debts.

More than $5 million in unpaid child maintenance was recouped last financial year by stopping debtors from leaving the country.

In one case, a man with a $40,000 child support debt was barred from leaving the country by the AFP. He repaid his debt the same day.

The National Council of Single Mothers said more such departure bans should be issued.

"The agency can identify the debtors, but the agency tends to pursue the highest-value debts, with the higher prospect of success," the council's Dr Elspeth McInnes said. "Those with a long history of avoidance tend not to be pursued either."

The Lone Fathers Association's Barry Williams said all parents - men and women - had a "natural obligation" to care for their children.

"They shouldn't be allowed to leave the country unless they've put in place a stable arrangement to take care of their kids," Mr Williams said.

More than $132 million in outstanding child support was collected by the CSA last financial year. About $114 million of that was recouped by intercepting the tax refunds of child support debtors.

Another $12 million was clawed back by unravelling complex financial arrangements used by some non-custodial parents to avoid paying their fair share.

The CSA handles about $2.8 billion in payments each year, supporting 1.15 million children.

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