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Family Forum – Fines driving family to distraction

Family Forum shares how to manage increasing fines, read on…

Question:

I am a father of three boys. Generally they are on track. They have good friends, did well enough at school to go on to study, and have good values.

Unfortunately, two of them received several fines over the years for relatively minor driving offences such as not having their licence on them, not displaying their P-plates, and driving above the speed limit. They couldn’t pay these fines due to having no income and I am not in a financial situation to help them, so they both ended up before the courts.

With the Victims of Crime Levy on each misdemeanour, late fees and other costs, one of my boys now owes over $4000. This is a shocking and overwhelming amount of money for a young man who is only working part-time to cover expenses such as public transport and lunch at uni.

Worry over the debt is impacting on his mental health and mine, and our family relationships. He has become withdrawn and depressed; his study is suffering.

The Fines Unit insists he pays no less than $50 a fortnight towards his debt but he simply can’t afford $50. He can’t afford $20! The red letters and threatening letters keep arriving, and I am informed that a warrant will be issued for his arrest. I am unable to sleep due to worrying and getting angry with the government and the courts for the crazy revenue raising exercises that must push kids to the brink of self-harm. Help please.

Answer:

The Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit (fines.sa.gov.au) has the task of collecting fines from various people as a result of expiation notices. The Fines Unit can add further charges to the debt called “enforcement fees”.

The Fines Unit can enter into a Payment Arrangement with a person, for which a fee (currently $18.70) is payable. Acceptance of a payment arrangement is not automatic and will depend partly on the prior history of the debtor.

Once a payment arrangement is in place, the debtor can pay by instalments. The relevant form invites the debtor to set out his or her preferred payment arrangements including weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The form also provides for debtors to set up direct debit arrangements if they choose.

There is not a lot of scope for negotiating with the Fines Unit outside of the abovementioned parameters. The website invites debtors to contact the Fines Unit on 1800 659 538 “if you are experiencing severe difficulty paying your overdue fines”.

The Fines Unit has various methods of recovery at its disposal. These include seizure and sale of assets such as motor vehicles. Other sanctions include being prevented indefinitely from renewing a driver’s licence and/or motor vehicle registration.

A charge can also be registered on the Title to land owned by the debtor.

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Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

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