NZ joins global child support initiative

Foreign-based parents who avoid their child support obligations in New Zealand are being targeted in a change that will make it easier for Inland Revenue to collect money owed.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash is in the Netherlands where he has today signed the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.

“Our tax system must be fair,” Mr Nash says. “It is patently unfair when some parents wriggle out of their child support obligations simply by living in countries where it is harder to enforce the payments.

“This initiative will see more New Zealand children and caregivers receiving their rightful child support. It will help Inland Revenue find liable parents living overseas and recover payments which till now could only be enforced via a court order in those countries.

“There are approximately 16,700 overseas-based parents with support obligations to New Zealand children. The vast majority, about 12,500 live in Australia where we have had good reciprocal arrangements for collecting these payments for almost 20 years.

“However about 4,200 parents who owe child support do not live in either New Zealand or Australia and we rely on them to voluntarily comply with their obligations. Voluntary compliance is low. Around $7.7 million in child support is currently outstanding.

“We have limited ability to find and keep in touch with people living in other countries. This agreement will improve that if the parent lives in one of the 42 countries which has signed the Hague Convention.

“Where a liable parent is living in a member state we can seek help from that country to find them. It is unclear how many liable parents are in these countries. Around 500 parents are believed to be affected. The location of a further 3,200 liable parents is unknown but it is considered likely that some are in Hague Convention states. 

“Those member states will be able to give information to Inland Revenue to allow it to assess the liable parent for child support, taking into account their circumstances. The support will then be collected by that state government on our behalf.”

“It will also mean that New Zealand can play its part by helping ensure that liable parents here pay child support for their children living in other member states. This means New Zealand can meet more of its obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Mr Nash says. 

The next steps require a Parliamentary Select Committee to consider the measure, report to Parliament, and for the Convention to then be ratified by an Order in Council. It is expected come into force in April 2021.