Child Support Debt Dodgers Face Travel Bans

The Hon Michael Keenan MP

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

Record numbers of Australians are being hit with international travel bans as part of a Federal Government crackdown on parents who refuse to meet their child support obligations.

A total of 1,067 individuals were served with a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO) in the first half of this financial year, representing an almost 50 per cent increase on the same six-month period last year.

The crackdown also helped to recoup more than $15 million between July 1 and December 30, which is $2.5 million more than the total amount recovered during all of the 2017-18 financial year.

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said that while most parents are responsible and always pay their child support on time, there are those who deliberately choose to do the wrong thing by their children.

“Paying child support is not a choice, it is a moral and legal obligation,” Minister Keenan said. “Those who shirk their responsibilities are literally depriving their children of a better life and we make no apologies for using these tough measures to make them pay up.

“The Government’s message to [TG1] parents is simple, if you can afford an overseas holiday, then you can afford to support your children. That should be your first priority, not jetting off for a break in a foreign country.”

Each year the Department of Human Services (DHS) facilitates the transfer of about $3.5 billion in child support payments to support about 1.2 million Australian children. The money recovered via DPOs goes straight to the parent who has custody of a child.

In late 2018, a Victorian parent agreed to make a lump sum payment of more than $185,000 after their travel plans were interrupted by a DPO. Prior to the order being issued, the parent had ignored all other attempts by DHS to encourage them to start making repayments.

A NSW parent who had been living oversees for several years and was not paying child support was hit with a DPO when they flew back into Australia for a brief visit late last year. The person repaid about $40,000 before they were allowed to leave the country again.

The biggest ever amount recovered from a parent as a lump sum was $350,000 in late 2017. The parent, who lived overseas, made the payment just hours after they were stopped at an Australian airport and were told they would not be able to leave until they settled the debt.

“What these examples demonstrate is that many parents have the means to pay, but are deliberately dodging their obligation to support their kids,” Minister Keenan said.

“Unlike Labor, which did little about the problem of child support debts when it was last in office, the Coalition is determined to use every tool at its disposal to hold these parents to account.

“Labor recouped just $6.7 million through the use of DPO’s during the 2012/13 financial year. We are on track to recover more than four times that amount this year.”

Other measures used by the Government to recover child support debts include deducting payments from benefits or wages, interception of tax refunds and debt collection through third parties.

/Public Release. View in full here.