There's a chilling training scenario I'm led to believe was part of the instruction for Child Support Agency recruits.
It goes that an officer spends weeks trying to resolve a dispute between a custodial parent and her former partner, which finally results in a fair outcome, agreeable to both parties, or so she thinks.
The next day the former partner contacts the case officer and says he is sending her red roses in appreciation for her work.
She feels she can't accept the beautiful bouquet but a work colleague says she'll take them home.
The red roses were the mark.
The rate of family violence in Australia is enough to provide a glimpse of the murky, crazy world of child support.
Started in 1988, it's a tough gig for those former partners, who are trying to build a new life while watching a fair portion of their pay packet creamed off the top.
It's a much tougher gig for the custodial parent, battling to hold down a job while doing household chores and getting the kids off to school, or to child care or the ever-present and helpful wider family, and then back home for the evening meal.
The former partner, usually the male, resents having to pay anything, even though they're his kids.
He finds it even more galling now she has a new partner who must be lapping up the fruits of his child support.
I've had my fair share of the CSA, which is an extremely stressful era in anyone's life, but I have no sympathy for those who don't pay and don't care. They're in the minority but their attitude is a reasonable pointer as to why the relationship failed in the first place.
Child support is a universal mechanism to ensure the kids don't suffer from a relationship breakdown.
Indeed, the mantra of the Child Support Agency is whatever benefits the child or children. Nothing else matters as much.
Over the years Parliament has tried to balance up the family breakdown, so that non-custodial parents have some rights.
But if those rights involve a reduced debt, guess who suffers?
In 2019-20 the agency had to collect almost $200 million, via tax refund intercepts, court cases and even intercepts of dead-beat parents trying to flee the country.
The agency executed 741 passport departure intercepts in 2019-20, involving $25 million.
In 2017-18 there were 1572 intercepts.
An intercept prevents the person leaving the country until arrangements have been established.
A staggering $77 million in child support payments for 2019-20 were collected from Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs payers or debtors.
CSA payments are a big deal.
For 2019-20 payments collected either by the CSA or via private agreements totalled $3.8 billion, to support 1.2 million children.
That's more than $3000 per child.
Almost two-thirds were transacted by private agreements which may include in-kind support for the kids such as school fees or private health insurance.
The rules dictate that the amount privately agreed does not vary too much from what the agency has assessed.
Still, private agreements have got to be better than a demand.
In more than 70,000 cases the agency requires the payer's employer to garnish child support from wages.
There's a stigma attached to this that may affect the relationship between a payer and their employer, and I guess that's why there's scope and an incentive for private agreements.
I'm a philistine with regard to outstanding debts. Companies and individuals face public exposure over such issues as bankruptcy.
Even a conflict over a personal or corporate debt and whether it exists or not can involve unwanted revelations of someone's identity.
Just imagine the clean up rate if a recalcitrant payer's child support debt or obligation was made public.
Let's say a debtor is refusing to pay up, or is trying to flee the country, or even worse has given up and quit their job or gone to ground to avoid payments.
For starters a proportionate amount would be garnished from their Centrelink payments. Huge financial pressure would be heaped on the custodial parent and, of course, the kids suffer.
I say, name and shame them.
Whether responsible for leaving the marriage, or, whether the person was not the parent leaving the marriage, the welfare of the kids remains.
The financial, physical and psychological strain on the custodial parent is obvious.
The other parent is usually better off.
The non-custodial parent can apply for a greater share of custody which in reality still won't involve net savings, or the parent shoulders a greater portion of the daily or weekly workload, which may not save money but at least contact with the kids is more frequent.
If dead-beat dads or mums want none of this and just want to get out of payments then be damned, named and shamed.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.