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  • Spies to hit divorced dads who don't pay
  • By Patricia Karvelas
  • The Australian
  • 19/06/2006 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 61 articles in 2006 )
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A CRACK team of investigators will spy on divorced dads who cry poor to avoid paying child support, using photographic and video evidence to expose them driving around in expensive cars and living in rich suburbs.

One hundred and twenty people will be employed to do the intensive investigation work to force divorced parents, mainly fathers, who are using elaborate ways of covering up their real incomes, to pay up.

The Child Support Agency's new compliance manager Angela Tillmanns said that while paper trails have been used in the past, the new field officers will be able to collect hard evidence.

"We will for the first time be able to investigate cases where people's lifestyles don't match what they're telling us their income is," she said.

"We will have the ability now to actually investigate that rather than just doing some quick data searches."

Ms Tillmanns said the tactic would be used against people suspected of concealing significant income. "It will involve recruiting a whole group of new people with skills. The child support scheme has been in place for 18 years now and some parents are becoming very sophisticated in the way in which they minimise their income for child support purposes."

Human Services Minister Joe Hockey said it was unfortunate the Government had to go as far as employing private investigators.

"It's disappointing that we have to go this far but a non-custodial parent who doesn't meet their obligations is simply denying their children the support they need," Mr Hockey said.

In the past there had been a "limited capacity for surveillance", he said.

"For people who do not pay their legal obligations we make no apology for dramatically increasing the resources of the CSA to make them meet their obligations.

"Every time we undertake surveillance we will do it on behalf of the children. We don't undertake them on behalf of custodial parents."

Ms Tillmanns said often a person receiving child support would ring the CSA and say, "I know he drives a Porsche, he lives in Mosman and he is telling you (the CSA) he is only earning $10,000 a year".

She said the additional evidence would make fathers realise they had been caught out. "You can't drive a Porsche if you're earning $16,000 a year. You can't live in the best suburbs," she said.

The CSA hopes the strategy will mean six times as many parents will be investigated, meaning an additional 1800 parents a year will face further scrutiny. At the moment only 300 parents are investigated.

The CSA will also issue an additional 1200 departure prohibition orders for people who regularly travel overseas.

In 2004/05, 482 parents with a child support debt paid a total of about $2.8million before being allowed overseas, thanks to CSA issuing such orders.

A DPO provides authority to the Australian Federal Police to stop people at the airport if they have outstanding debts.

The Howard Government will spend $134 million over the next five years chasing parents who avoid paying child support.

About 40 per cent of separated fathers pay just $5 a week in child support, and around 105,000 are using self-employment and cash income to understate their real incomes to avoid paying child support.

Dobbing in the dads
Letter to The Australian
20 June 2006

WE slip a little further into becoming Dob Nation with the Child Support Agency preparing to set investigators onto dads suspected of minimising their income for child support obligation purposes (19/6). Support paying dads who are in arrears will soon be treated as common criminals. Young men, beware. That old biological imperative has a lot to answer for. Resist it with all your strength.

David William Hall
Southport, Qld

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