Ask Your Lawyer: How Do You Claim Child Support If Your Ex-Spouse Moves To New Zealand?

8 September 2015
 Categories: , Articles


New Zealand is an increasingly popular destination for Australians looking to emigrate. In fact, in 2014, more people moved to New Zealand from Australian than the other way round for the first time in 24 years. For estranged parents, this type of emigration can become a concern, and you may worry about child support arrangements when an ex-partner moves away. Find out what you can do to protect your child support if a paying parent moves to New Zealand.

How child support agreements work

In Australia, the Child Support Scheme overseas the money that parents must pay following a divorce or separation. The Australian government regulates child support assessments, which consider various factors to calculate what each parent should pay.

With or without a child support assessment, most parents sign a legally binding child support agreement that confirms how much each person should pay or receive. The agreement cannot end unless both parties agree to make a new one, or if you apply to the family court to change the agreement.

So what happens if one parent moves to New Zealand?

Child support and parents in New Zealand

If a parent moves to New Zealand, he or she will often continue to meet the terms of a child support agreement. Responsible parents don't ignore the needs of their children, so you should never assume that your ex-spouse will stop making payments.

Of course, some estranged parents try to shirk their financial responsibilities, and they don't need to move overseas to do it. Fortunately, the Department of Human Services in Australia can help you if have problems with a child support agreement.

If your ex-spouse moves to New Zealand, you can get an Australian court order that forces the absent parent to pay child support. New Zealand is one of many reciprocating jurisdictions that have agreed to enforce Australian child support agreements. That aside, it's important to consult a family lawyer as soon as you have problems, as it's not always easy to enforce the agreement.

Why you need a family lawyer

A family lawyer can help you navigate the legal process to make sure you continue to receive child support. The Department of Human Services will always try to get your ex-spouse to pay voluntarily. Failing this, your lawyer can apply for a court order, but you should note that this process is often time-consuming, so you may not receive your money for some time.

A family lawyer can ask for one of several options to enforce the agreement. The New Zealand authorities will normally support these requests. Options include the following:

  • Compulsory salary deductions
  • Legal Action
  • An order that prevents your ex-partner leaving the country

What's more, you can ask the Department of Human Services to intercept your ex-spouse's Australian tax return to reclaim monies owed.

It's difficult to enforce a child support agreement in New Zealand if you don't have your ex-spouse's contact details. While he or she may break contact with you, your lawyer will discuss other ways you can get this information. For example, you may find information through mutual friends on social media.

An experienced family lawyer can also help you understand any changes in legislation. Child support laws in Australia and New Zealand regularly change. For example, the law in New Zealand changed in 2015 to include a new way of calculating child support, prompting some parents to take drastic action. Your lawyer can help you understand what these and other changes mean in your case.

Other legal options

The Australian authorities are not always successful in obtaining a child support agreement, even in reciprocating jurisdictions like New Zealand. In this instance, a family lawyer may need to approach the relevant authorities in New Zealand to instigate a separate case to agree liability via their legal system. If this is the case, similar enforcement options are possible, but the process could take even longer.

In 2013, the New Zealand government introduced a new process for enforcing Australian civil court orders. Unfortunately, this process does not apply to child support orders.

If your ex-spouse moves to New Zealand, you could face problems with a child support agreement. Contact a family law firm in Australia for more advice.