The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

1.5.2 International agreements & conventions


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 Part IV, 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 between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand on Child and Spousal Maintenance, the Registrar and 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 (that is, 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.

Article 24 of the agreement provides for the Registrar and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue for New Zealand to make arrangements (the Service Arrangement) to facilitate the implementation of the agreement. The Service Arrangement deals with matters including procedural issues and the exchange of information. The full text of the agreement appears at Schedule 1 of the CSRC Regs.

Hague Convention on the Recognition & Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations

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 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 Hague 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.

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 provides for:

  • the enforcement of each State's court orders and administrative assessments by the other State
  • the establishment of maintenance decisions, including in relation to parentage
  • administrative assistance, and
  • the sharing of information between the relevant State authorities.

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.

United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance

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

Provisions under child support legislation, as well as FL Act section 111 and provisions of the FL Regs, are relevant to the operation of the Convention.

A payee in an UNCRAM State can make an application to an UNCRAM State where the liable parent resides for that State to establish a maintenance liability on their behalf. An UNCRAM State may also register an existing liability under this Convention but only where their domestic law allows.

A payee who resides in a reciprocating jurisdiction that is an UNCRAM State 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 (for example, 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 Part IV of 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 (for example, 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 State.

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 State (that is, 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.

The full text of the Convention is included at Schedule 3 to the FL Regs. A list of Convention countries is in Schedule 4 to the FL Regs.

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