Recovering child support payments

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

Addressing a debt

You need to address any debts as soon as possible.

Reasons why a payment may be overdue include the:

  • payment was late or not paid
  • assessment changed and now you owe more money, or
  • 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.

You must tell us as soon as possible if your circumstances change. This can include changes to your contact details, care arrangements or income. Delays telling us about the change may result in a debt or an overpayment.

Missed payments

If you miss a payment, you need to catch up as soon as possible.

If you can't pay in full, tell us 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 amounts.

Recovering overdue child support

We have powers under legislation to recover overdue child support through the following ways.  We’ll use these powers to recover overdue child support for the benefit of your child.

Employer deductions

If the paying parent refuses to pay child support we can make their employer deduct amounts from their pay. We can also do this if they refuse to agree to a suitable payment arrangement.

Enforcing tax return lodgement

If you pay or get child support you must lodge a tax return. If the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) says you don't need to, you may still need to lodge a non-lodgement advice. Read about if you need to lodge a tax return 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. This may still happen when you have a payment arrangement in place. Call us before you lodge your tax return if this would cause you hardship.

Issuing overseas travel bans

We can stop a paying parent with a Departure Prohibition Order if they:

  • have overdue child support
  • refuse to work with us to pay it, and
  • plan to travel overseas

This is an administrative order. It prevents them 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. We’ll do this if 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 we can make their bank deduct lump sums from their account. We can also do this if they refuse to agree to a suitable payment arrangement.

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’ll find out. 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, like companies, trusts or partnerships, which hide or reduce taxable income and reduces child support obligations, and
  • legitimately reducing taxable income and fringe benefits, we use these amounts to calculate a more accurate 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 that may help us collect unpaid child support.

For example if you:

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

Late payment penalties

If you don't make your payments in full and on time, we may apply penalties on the outstanding amount. You'll pay the penalty amount to the Australian Government, not to the recipient. 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.

Page last updated: 7 August 2018