The answer is yes.

The Inland Revenue Department can prevent the paying parent from leaving New Zealand if child support is owed. The reason for this is that Inland Revenue and the Courts have an information sharing agreement with New Zealand Customs.  

If you are a liable parent and want to travel overseas, you should contact Inland Revenue to ensure your payment obligations are up to date before you leave.  

Does this happen much? More than you would think.

The reason I’m writing this blog article is today I was contacted by a criminal lawyer that had a defendant in the cells with exactly this problem.  

The statutory or legal basis for arrest is contained in section 199 of the Child Support Act 1991.  

General procedure when a person is arrested

The liable person is generally brought before the District Court, and if it is satisfied that the liable or paying person is likely to leave New Zealand with the intent of avoiding payment of any liability under the Act, may make one of the following orders under ss199(2):

  • An order that the liable person gives security for the payment of that liability as the Court specifies (this might be a passport for example).
  • An order that the liable person does not leave New Zealand without the written permission of the Court.
  • An order that the liable person surrenders to the Court for such period as the Court specifies any tickets or travel documents in that person’s possession.

Under subsection (4) every person commits an offence and is liable to a conviction of imprisonment not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 whom an order is made under (2)(b) is enforced, leaves New Zealand or attempts to do any act with intent to leave New Zealand.   There are also ways to enforce the non-payment of spousal maintenance which are dealt with separately on the website here.   For more advice on Child Support, contact Jeremy Sutton.  


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