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Wed, Nov 01, 2006

Australian Program Catches Deadbeat Parents At The Gate

The Message: Pay Up Before You Leave The Country

Authorities in Australia believe they've found a way to catch deadbeat parents who fail to pay their child support... by stopping them as they're waiting to board airline flights.

The Australian newspaper reports 482 parents were stopped by the Child Support Agency in the past fiscal year, and ordered to pay up combined debts of more than $6.7 million before they were allowed to leave on overseas vacations.

That's out of roughly 1200 people -- mostly wealthy fathers, according to The Australian -- on the agency's list. And the number of parents caught at airport gates is expected to double this year.

A departure prohibition order gives the Australian Federal Police authority to stop parents at the airport from leaving the country -- a move that's earned kudos from Lone Fathers Association president Barry Williams.

"It had to happen because it's not fair just to leave like that," he said.

Minister for Human Services Joe Hockey says the government makes "no apologies" for the crackdown on those trying to skip out on paying child support.

"I am warning serious avoiders -- pay up before you reach the departure lounge," he said. "This is a very successful mechanism for collecting outstanding child support, of which many other countries are envious."

"Some serious avoiders of child support believe they can escape their payment obligations by leaving the country," Hockey added. "Obviously people are given ample opportunity to resolve their childcare debts before reaching an airport but it is important they know that they could be stopped."

Since the program's inception in 2001, 1151 parents with child support debts have paid about $12.2 million before heading overseas.



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