Fines from dead-beat dads stay in government coffers

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child-support-agencyTHE Federal Government is hoarding millions of dollars from dead-beat dads that could be helping support their partners and children.

Rather than hand fees and penalties over to custodial parents, the Government pockets the money.

But last year’s $9 million total was only a fraction of the $116 million that could have been charged to parents who failed to pay their child support on time, employers who failed to pass on payments or other offences.

National Council of Single Mothers chief executive Terese Edwards says the $9 million ought to go to custodial parents.

“A penalty is a small acknowledgment of the financial duress, hardship and uncertainty that the receiving parent and children have to endure. At times child support debt can span years.”

It would compensate for the times parents were left struggling to pay bills when child support was late.

Shared Parenting Council of Australia executive secretary Wayne Butler said fees were an ineffective but necessary way to make parents pay up.

“If they don’t charge something some people won’t pay,” he said.

“It’s a negative process on top of an already difficult time. Many people are struggling to pay child support.”

He knew of suicides and people losing all their assets as they struggled to meet their child support commitments.

But he also knew of parents who had negotiated payment plans enabling them to avoid penalties.

Child Support operations are handled by the Department of Human Services while the Department of Social Services sets policy.

A spokesman said penalties could be waived if the overdue child support was paid in full.

“Our goal is to ensure that child support is paid in full and on time, and to resolve any child support debt before enforcement is needed.”

A Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program is underway. Submissions close on June 13.

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