5.6.2 Registrar-initiated ending of collection
The Registrar can require parents to collect child support privately, despite the parents not having made an election to end collection of child support. The Registrar will only make a decision to require parents to make their own child support payment arrangements in cases where:
- the payer has a satisfactory payment record for the past 6 months
- the Registrar is satisfied that the payer will continue to pay their child support on time, and
- the Registrar is satisfied that private payment arrangements are appropriate for the parties involved.
On this page
- Does a payer have a satisfactory payment record?
- All child support paid on time over the past 6 months
- Is the payer likely to continue to make their payments on time?
- Is private collection appropriate in the circumstances?
- Exceptional difficulties
Does a payer have a satisfactory payment record?
There are 3 prescribed criteria for deciding whether a payer has a satisfactory payment record (CSRC Regs section 18). These are:
- the payer's liability has been registered for collection for at least the past 6 months
- the payer has no child support arrears, and
- the payer has either paid all their child support on time over the last 6 months, or there are circumstances that satisfactorily explain any late payment.
All child support paid on time over the past 6 months
A payer who makes payments directly to the Registrar will be considered to have paid their child support on time over the past 6 months if they paid their monthly liability in full over the past 6 months within 7 days of the due date.
A payer who makes payments via employer withholding will be considered to have paid their child support on time over the past 6 months if Services Australia received the full expected employer deduction in each of the past 6 months and the deductions covered the payer's full liability for each payment period.
Where the employer has deducted the scheduled amount from the payer's salary or wages, but remitted the deductions to Services Australia after the due date, the Registrar will still be satisfied that the payer has paid the amounts on time. When the amounts deducted by an employer are not sufficient to cover a payer's full liability in one or more payment periods in the past 6 months, the payer will still have a satisfactory payment record if they make the missing payments directly to the Registrar within 7 days of the due date.
A payer who makes payments for part or all of their child support liability by the credit of non-agency payments (NAP) for the past 6 months will be considered to have paid their child support if the NAP or NAPs were paid or transferred to the payee or to a third party within 7 days of the due date for the payment period in which the liability accrued.
A payer who has not paid all their child support on time over the past 6 months may still have a satisfactory payment record if there are circumstances that satisfactorily explain the late payment (CSRC Regs section 18(b)(ii)). The circumstances which satisfactorily explain late payments include:
- a payer was physically unable to make their usual child support payment by the due date because of an illness or injury (and the payer paid their entire child support liability as soon as it was possible to do so)
- the payer was unable to make the usual child support payment because they were personally providing care for their spouse or child during a serious illness (and the payer paid their entire child support liability as soon as it was possible to do so)
- a retrospective variation is made to the liability. A payer may have had arrears of child support over the past 6 months which they have repaid by adhering to a satisfactory payment arrangement. If those arrears arose from a retrospective variation which was not due to the payer's action (or inaction), the payer can still be taken to have a satisfactory payment record.
Example: The Registrar retrospectively increased Jerrod's child support assessment for the past year after Fatima (the payee) applied for a change of assessment because of the extra costs of orthodontic work for their child. Jerrod was up to date with his child support payments before the increase. Jerrod has paid his new rate of child support on time each month since the increase. Jerrod did not have sufficient funds available to pay the full amount of arrears when they were due. Jerrod entered into a payment arrangement with Services Australia to repay the arrears over 8 months. Jerrod made all the agreed payments and his child support is now up to date.
Although Jerrod had arrears over the past 6 months, Jerrod is taken to have a satisfactory payment record because there are circumstances that satisfactorily explain the late payment.
Is the payer likely to continue to make their payments on time?
A payer who has made timely payments of child support for at least 6 months will generally be considered likely to continue to make their payments on time. Where the payer had a poor payment history before the 6 month period, the Registrar will consider whether the payer is likely to voluntarily pay their child support to the payee without Services Australia's involvement.
The Registrar will consider the following when deciding whether a payer will continue to make their payments on time (this list is not exhaustive):
- reasons for late payment of any monthly child support payment
- the payer's cooperativeness in repaying this debt
- whether the Registrar took any enforcement action in the past 12-18 months (including intercepting tax refunds)
- where the Registrar has been collecting by employer withholding, whether there were arrears at the time that commenced
- any statements by the payer that establish a clear intention not to pay if not compelled to do so
- the reasons for the failure of any previous private arrangement within the past 12-18 months, and
- if 2 or more private arrangements have failed in the last 3 to 5 years, the reasons for those failures.
Is private collection appropriate in the circumstances?
If the payer has a satisfactory payment record for the past 6 months and the Registrar is satisfied that the payer will continue to pay their child support on time, the Registrar must also be satisfied that private payment arrangements are appropriate in the circumstances of the case. The Registrar considers that it is appropriate for parents to make private payment arrangements if satisfied that those arrangements are sustainable. A private payment arrangement will not be appropriate if there are exceptional difficulties in the relationship between the parents, or between the parents and their children, which could undermine the arrangement.
The Registrar will examine the case file for objective indicators of any exceptional difficulties in the relationship between the parents, or between the parents and their children.
Where one parent is reluctant to make private collection arrangements work, this will not generally be an exceptional difficulty.
Exceptional difficulties could be of a long-term enduring nature (e.g. domestic violence) or of a more temporary nature (e.g. litigation). They may include, but are not limited to the following:
Private collection is not appropriate in cases where there is a history of family violence (6.10.1). It may generally be inappropriate to require a person who has previously been exempted from having to take reasonable maintenance action to collect privately.
Private collection is not appropriate where a parent's physical or mental illness makes it unlikely that private arrangements would be sustainable.
Private collection is not appropriate where the payer has 'supervised contact' with a child of the relationship.
Current or pending litigation
Litigation between the parents may indicate private collection is not appropriate. It is irrelevant whether the litigation is about child support issues or an unrelated matter. Litigation can be a cause of stress or concern which may make moving to, or sustaining, private arrangements more difficult.
History of disputes
A history of disputes between the parents documented on Services Australia's records (e.g. ongoing disputes about payments or care arrangements) may indicate that private collection would not be appropriate.