Recovering child support payments
If you have outstanding child support, we can enforce payment if you use Child Support Collect.
Addressing a debt
You need to address any debts you have as soon as possible.
There are a few reasons a payment may be overdue. It may be because:
- the payment was late or not made at all
- the assessment changed
- the receiving parent asked us to collect an unpaid amount from a Private Collect period
- there was a change in your circumstances and you didn’t let us know.
If your circumstances change, you need to let us know as soon as possible. This may include changes to your:
- contact details
- care arrangements
If you don’t tell us about a change you may get a debt or an overpayment.
Late payment penalties
If you don’t pay your child support in full and on time, we may apply penalties on the outstanding amount. You pay the penalty amount to the Australian Government, not to the receiving parent. If you pay the overdue child support, we may reduce or remove the penalty from your account.
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. We may be able to accept instalments. Use the Statement of financial details for debt repayment form to tell us about your financial situation. This will help us work out a payment arrangement with you.
If you can't pay your debt, you need to call us on the Child Support general enquiries line. If you don't contact us we'll take action to recover the overdue amounts. We’ll also do this if we can't come to a payment arrangement with you.
Recovering overdue child support
We have powers under legislation to recover overdue child support. We can do this through:
- income support payment deductions
- enforcing tax return lodgment or intercepting tax refunds
- working with third parties
- employer or bank account deductions
- issuing overseas travel bans
We use these powers to collect child support for the benefit of the children.
Income support payment deductions
We can collect any outstanding child support from either:
- an income support payment
- a payment you get from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
Enforcing tax return lodgment
If you pay or get child support you must either lodge a:
- tax return
- non-lodgment advice if the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) says you don't need to lodge a tax return.
Read about if you need to lodge a tax return on the ATO website.
Intercepting tax refunds
Most 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. If this would cause you hardship, call us on the Child Support general enquiries line. You should do this before you lodge your tax return.
Working with third parties
In some situations, we work with other organisations and third parties to collect any unpaid child support.
Employer or bank account deductions
If a parent refuses to pay child support we can use our powers to collect amounts owed. We can also do this if you refuse to agree to a suitable payment arrangement.
Issuing overseas travel bans
We can stop a parent from leaving Australia if they:
- plan to travel overseas
- have overdue child support
- refuse to work with us to pay it.
We do this with a Departure Prohibition Order.
This prevents the parent from leaving Australia until they either:
- pay the overdue child support
- agree to a suitable payment arrangement.
We don't need a court order to prevent a parent from leaving Australia.
We can take legal action to collect any outstanding child support. We only do this if other collection methods don't work. We’ll do this if there’s an asset or income stream in the parent's name.
We may prosecute for serious actions or omissions involving criminal behaviour.
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.
We also investigate income that's not from salary or wages. For example, situations where companies, trusts or partnerships are set up to hide or reduce taxable income and child support.
We also investigate people who legitimately reduce taxable income and fringe benefits to pay less child support. We may 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 people to report suspected fraud. We encourage them to let us know if they have information that may help us collect unpaid child support.
For example if you know:
- a parent with overdue child support plans to travel outside Australia
- someone who’s earning income we don't know about.
Page last updated: 29 January 2019