1.5.2 International Agreements & Conventions

Context

Australia is a party to a number of international agreements and conventions about international maintenance obligations.

Act references

CSRC Regs Schedule 1

FL Act section 111

FL Regs regulation 40 to regulation 56, Schedule 3, Schedule 4

On this page

Australia & New Zealand agreement

The Australian and New Zealand governments entered into an agreement to facilitate the collection of liabilities under administrative assessments of child support from 1 July 2000. Under the agreement, the Registrar and the New Zealand Inland Revenue Child Support can each collect child support liabilities assessed by the other authority.

The agreement limits the jurisdiction of the 2 contracting states (i.e. Australia and New Zealand). The contracting state where the payee is habitually resident (1.6.4) will issue and administer the assessment, and the contracting state where the payer resides will be responsible for collection. The agreement provides that a child support assessment made in one contracting state will end from the day before the date that contracting state receives written notice that the payee is habitually resident in the other contracting state. The notice can be from the payer, payee or the other contracting state.

The full text of the agreement appears at schedule 1 of the CSRC Regs.

Hague Convention on the Recognition & Enforcement of Decisions

On 1 February 2002 Australia became a contracting state to the 1973 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations (the Hague Convention). The other signatories to the Hague Convention are mainly European countries with which Australia previously had no reciprocal arrangements. Prior to the Hague convention, Australia relied on applications in relation to these countries being sent under the United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (see below). The Hague Convention applies to both spousal and child support obligations. It has the effect of establishing reciprocal agreements with other contracting states to recognise and enforce maintenance decisions made by judicial or administrative authorities in convention countries.

Like the New Zealand agreement, the Hague Convention provides for the recognition of administrative assessments (rather than just court orders or court registered agreements). The convention provides for the relatively simple and speedy enforcement of existing Australian liabilities by overseas courts and administrative authorities. However, a contracting state will only recognise a decision of an administrative authority such as the Registrar if the laws of that state support that recognition.

The Hague Convention (PDF 53kB)

Agreement between Australia & the United States of America

The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America for the Enforcement of Maintenance (Support) Obligations came into force on 12 December 2002. It replaces the former non-treaty arrangements between Australia and some individual states of the USA.

The agreement:

  • deals with the enforcement of court orders and administrative assessments
  • provides for a liability to be created in and varied in the country in which the payee is resident except where the payer has had no or little connection with Australia. In these cases the individual state where the liable parent resides would claim personal jurisdiction where a new liability is sent to them and the payee in Australia would have to petition the USA requesting a liability be established in the USA. Where a US liability is registered in Australia and the payee still lives in the state where the liability was initiated, that state will claim continuing jurisdiction over the liability. Therefore the USA cannot recognise an Australian court variation to the liability in spite of this being available to the liable parent in Australia and recognised in Australia
  • obliges each country to assist in locating payers, serving notices and providing advice, and
  • provides for the protection of privacy and for information sharing.

For Australia, the agreement applies in Australia, Norfolk Island and the territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. For the USA, the agreement applies in the fifty states, American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands and any other jurisdiction of the United States participating in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

Agreement between Australia and the United States of America (PDF 36kB)

United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance

The United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (UNCRAM) was signed in New York on 20 June 1956. It aimed to overcome the legal and practical difficulties involved in establishing claims for maintenance abroad where other reciprocal arrangements did not exist.

Australia is a contracting party to the convention, which is included at schedule 3 to the FL Regs. Provisions under child support legislation, as well as provisions of the FL Act and FL Regs, are relevant to the operation of the convention.

A payee in an UNCRAM country can make an application to an UNCRAM country where the liable parent resides for that country to establish a maintenance liability on their behalf. An UNCRAM country may also register an existing liability under this convention but only where their domestic law allows. The current active UNCRAM members are listed in schedule 4 of the Family Law Regulations.

A payee who resides in a reciprocating jurisdiction that is an UNCRAM country can make an application via the relevant overseas authority if the payer resides in Australia. The application can be for registration of an existing overseas liability, or an application to establish a child support assessment.

If the payee does not have an existing overseas liability and is not eligible for an Australian assessment (e.g. because the child is over 18), the payee can still make an application for establishment of a liability in Australia under the convention, as provided for under the FL Regs.

A payee in Australia may need to make an UNCRAM application for establishment of a liability if they are seeking maintenance from a payer, but cannot otherwise do so (e.g. because the laws of the reciprocating jurisdiction do not currently allow that jurisdiction to recognise a child support assessment). The Registrar will transmit the application to the relevant country.

The Registrar may also transmit an existing registered child support assessment or maintenance order to a reciprocating jurisdiction under UNCRAM if that is the only arrangement that exists between Australia and the reciprocating jurisdiction.

A court in the receiving UNCRAM country (i.e. where the payer resides) will decide the level of maintenance payable under the relevant law in that jurisdiction (Article 6 of the convention). It may take into account the information provided by the Registrar in making that decision.

Last reviewed: 20 March 2015