Overdue child support payments

We can enforce payment of outstanding child support amounts if you use Child Support Collect.

Addressing a child support debt

You need to address any debts as soon as possible.

Reasons why a child support payment may be overdue include:

  • the payment was late or not paid
  • the assessment changed and now more money is owed, or
  • the receiving person asks us to collect an unpaid amount from a Private Collect period

You may also not have told us about a change to your circumstances.

It's important you tell us about any changes to your circumstances as soon as they happen, as we may not be able to backdate the change.

Missed payments

If you're a paying parent and you miss a payment, you need to catch up as soon as possible.

If you can't pay in full, propose an amount you can pay immediately to reduce your debt. We might also accept instalments. Use the Statement of financial details for debt repayment form to help you assess your financial situation.

If you can't make up the payment, you need to contact us.

If you don't contact us or we can't make an arrangement with you, we'll actively try to recover the overdue child support for the benefit of your child.

Late payment penalties

If payments aren't made in full and on time, we may apply penalties on the amount of outstanding child support. The penalty amount is paid to the Australian Government - not to the receiving person. If you pay the overdue child support, we may remit the penalty amount. This means we may reduce or remove the penalty from your child support account.

Recovering overdue child support

We have powers under legislation to recover overdue child support through the following ways.

Employer deductions

If the paying parent refuses to pay child support or agree to a suitable payment arrangement, we can make their employer deduct child support from their pay.

Enforcing tax return lodgment

All child support customers, not just paying parents, must lodge a tax return unless you don’t need to lodge one. You may still need to lodge a 'Non-lodgment' advice with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Information about needing to lodge a tax return is available on the ATO website.

Intercepting tax refunds

Most paying parents pay tax in Australia. We may use a tax refund to meet an outstanding child support payment.

Issuing overseas travel bans

If a paying parent has overdue child support, refuses to work with us to pay it and plans to travel overseas, we can stop them with a Departure Prohibition Order.

This is an administrative order that prevents them from leaving Australia until they pay the overdue child support or agree to a suitable payment arrangement.

We don't need a court order to prevent them from leaving Australia.

Litigation

We can take paying parents to court to collect outstanding child support if other enforcement methods don't work, and there’s an asset or income stream in the paying parent's name.

Prosecution

We may prosecute for serious actions or omissions involving criminal behaviour.

Bank account deductions

If a paying parent refuses to pay child support or agree to a suitable payment arrangement, we can make their bank deduct lump sum payments from their account.

Income support payment deductions

We can recover unpaid child support from an income support payment or payment from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Working with third parties

In some situations, we work with other organisations and third parties to recover unpaid child support.

Investigating unpaid child support

We match data from other sources and act on tip-offs to identify customers whose income doesn't match their lifestyle. If you're dishonest about your income, we can find out about it and you may have to pay more child support or repay it.

We investigate:

  • income from the cash economy - for example, 'cash in hand' can be common in building and other industries
  • income that's not salary or wages - for example, business or investment income
  • corporate veils, such as companies, trusts or partnerships, which hide or reduce taxable income and reduces child support obligations, and
  • legitimately reducing taxable income and fringe benefits - we can use these amounts to calculate a more accurate child support assessment

In serious cases, we can use optical surveillance to investigate complex avoidance arrangements.

We encourage you to report suspected fraud if you have information you think will help us collect unpaid child support. For example if:

  • you know a parent with overdue child support payments plans to travel outside Australia, or
  • you believe there's income we don't know about

Page last updated: 23 November 2016