Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Child support agreement between Australia and New Zealand

In 2000 an agreement was signed between Australia and New Zealand which sought to facilitate the recognition and enforcement of child support decisions between the two countries.

A fundamental premise of the agreement is that while child support assessments, liabilities and orders of one country can be subject to applications in the other country, any orders made in the second country can only become binding if endorsed by the originating country.

The recent decision by the Full Court of the Family Court in Child Support Registrar & Higgins [2016] confirmed this.

In this matter the mother, a New Zealander, had obtained a child support assessment from the relevant New Zealand agency. The Australian father subsequently sought an order from the Federal Circuit Court here that the assessment be dismissed or that it was unenforceable. Orders were made by the Court stopping the enforcement of the assessment. The New Zealand agency advised the father that the orders were not acceptable as only a New Zealand court could make such a final order. The New Zealand agency subsequently lodged the assessment with the Australian agency for collection. The Australian agency then became involved in proceedings and appealed the orders that had been made on the basis that they were unenforceable.

The Appeal was wholly successful and the Court confirmed the principles of the 2000 agreement. 


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