Recovering child support payments

How we enforce payments of overdue amounts of child support.

Paying a debt

You need to address any debts you have as soon as possible. If you can't repay the amount in full, you can make a payment arrangement by calling the Child Support enquiry line.

There are a few reasons a payment may be overdue. It may be because:

  • the payment was late or not made
  • 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
  • income.

You can do this by using:

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.

Missed payments

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

If you can't pay in full, you can make a payment arrangement. 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 enquiry line. If you don't contact us we'll recover the overdue payments. We’ll also do this if we can't come to a payment arrangement with you.

Recovering overdue child support

Under legislation, we have powers to recover overdue child support. Please contact us before the due date if you can’t repay the money. 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
  • litigation
  • prosecution.

We use these powers to collect child support for the benefit of the children.

Redirection of refunds to other debts

If you pay too much child support, we may have money to repay you. If you also have other child support debts, we will instead redirect this money to them. After your child support debt’s paid, we’ll refund any money left over to you.

Income support payment deductions

We can collect any outstanding child support from either:

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.

Tax refunds

Most parents pay tax in Australia. We may use a tax refund to pay any outstanding amounts. This may still happen if you have a payment arrangement in place. If this would cause you hardship, call us on the Child support enquiry line. Do this before you lodge your tax return.

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 doesn't pay child support we can use our powers to collect amounts owed.

Overseas travel bans

We can stop a parent from leaving Australia when all the following apply to their situation. They:

  • plan to travel overseas
  • have an overdue amount
  • don't come to a suitable arrangement to pay the overdue amount.

We do this with a Departure Prohibition Order.

This prevents the parent from leaving Australia until they either:

  • pay the overdue amount
  • agree to a suitable payment arrangement.

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

Litigation

We can take legal action to collect any outstanding amounts. 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.

Prosecution

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

Unpaid child support investigations

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 pay it back.

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 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 amounts.

For example if you know:

  • a parent with overdue amounts who plans to travel outside Australia
  • someone who’s earning income we don't know about.

Recovering overpayments

Read more about how we recover child support overpayments.

Page last updated: 22 March 2021