Child custody issues highlighted by travel ban figures

Date: Jan 13, 2012

The issue of child custody arrangements may have been affected by a range of economic factors in recent months, with figures from the Child Support Agency (CSA) showing an increase in the number of departure prohibition orders (DPO) for failure to meet support payments.

These administrative tools allow the agency to stop a parent from leaving the country until a satisfactory financial arrangement is reached - or the required amount is paid in full.

In 2011, there were 80 individuals who had a DPO applied to them after repeated attempts to have them pay child support.

According to recent reports, the number of individuals issued with these orders had risen to 860 in 2011 from 840 in 2010 - meaning a total net increase of 20 cases over a year.

The CSA - a part of the Department of Human Services - says that it does not issue the prohibitive orders if a parent misses a single payment.

Instead, the agency prefers to try and contact the individual who missed the date to make the parenting contribution "to work out a way for [them] to pay the overdue amount".

According to the CSA, the use of a DPO is a measure of "last resort" that is only applied after officers review a case in depth to make sure that all relevant factors surrounding the issue are taken into consideration.

The orders are only delivered in cases when there is an outstanding  child support liability that does not have "satisfactory" mechanisms in place to ensure the payments are made - and do not require a court order to be made.

In additions<del the CSA needs to be satisfied that the person responsible for meeting the financial contributions "has persistently and without reasonable grounds failed to pay child support debts" and may attempt to leave the country without first making sufficient arrangements to do so.

Persons issued with a departure prohibition will be unable to leave the country, as both customs agents and Australian Federal Police are charged with stopping them from attempting to cross international borders.

To be able to travel abroad, the individual needs to first contact the CSA and begin discussing their option - preferably with the advice of a trusted family lawyer.

In cases of genuine financial hardship, the agency is able to work with parents to reach a suitable payment arrangement - allowing a DPO to be lifted and international travel to continue.