Over in Ireland, there’s fresh political debate about the need for a statutory child maintenance agency to take over management of child support there, similar to Australia’s Child Support Agency. Irish courts currently make orders about child support in family law as part of divorce proceedings and the outcomes and rates vary greatly depending on the judge and case. One of the suggestions being debated is a state-guaranteed payment such as that which exists in Sweden, and this is something Australia has considered too.
Child support affects over 20% of the Australian population. The Australian Child Support Agency was established in 1988 and now distributes more than $3.5 billion in child support monies.
But even with a specialised agency, the problem lies in the enforcement of child support assessments. Our Child Support Agency has various enforcement powers including garnishing wages, intercepting tax refunds or debt collection by third parties. Ten years ago the Tax Office also began issuing Departure Prohibition Orders which impose international travel bans for child support debtors–over a thousand people have had such bans imposed in the first half of 2019 alone.
And yet, one third of Australia’s paying parents still have a debt, resulting in a collective debt of $1.6 billion.
Lobbyists for a state-guaranteed payment argue it would motivate the state to take more concerted and timely collection action from defaulting payers than what currently takes place.
With a state-guaranteed payment, the agency pays a payee out of public funds and recoups the money from the paying parent. If that parent genuinely can’t pay, the state ensures the recipients still get the funds. This prevents children living in poverty just because a parent won’t pay child support or makes themselves unemployable or disappears.
A state-guaranteed payment could also be helpful in stopping child support becoming weaponised, such as when parents are denied access to their children over child support issues, or where child support is used as a means of financial control. Research has shown that avoiding child support obligations may be linked to family violence “as ‘part of an ongoing attempt to maintain power and control’. It may also in itself, constitute economic abuse.”
And earlier this year The Guardian interviewed women who were victims of family violence yet were forced to deal with abusive ex’s through the Child Support Agency and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
So will the debate over the child support system—and potential state-guaranteed child support payments–regain traction here?
Source: Irish Times
If you have any questions about entering into a Limited Child Support Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement with your ex-partner, in which you can agree a rate of child support, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.