Are Parents Entitled to Receive Adult Child Maintenance?

In Australia, a parent that doesn’t reside with their child/ren may be responsible for providing them with financial support, particularly if they are under the age of 18. But what happens when a child turns 18? Can a parent still claim adult child maintenance from their ex spouse?

What Does Legislation Say?

The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 confirms that child support is traditionally paid until the child turns 18. There is no automatic duty to continue payments after they turn 18 years of age. However, section 66L of the Family Law Act 1975 states that the courts may make an adult child maintenance order if the financial support is necessary:

  • to enable their child to complete their education (including secondary and tertiary education); or
  • because of their child’s mental or physical disability.

A child maintenance order can be made by the court when the child is 17, and can take effect when or after that child turns 18.

What the Court Will Consider

To determine whether or not the financial support is ‘necessary’, particularly for a child to complete their education, the court may consider:

  • How much financial support the child needs;
  • The financial circumstances of each parent and how much financial support they need to support themselves as well as other new dependents;
  • Necessary expenses to meet the child’s needs;
  • Whether or not the intended course will qualify the child to gain employment sufficient enough to support themselves;
  • The likelihood of the child completing the course;
  • The relationship between the parent expected to pay support and the child; or
  • The ability of the child to contribute financially. For instance, through scholarships or their own earning capacity. Are they working part-time whilst studying?

Necessary expenses for an adult child may include food, housing (even if paid by a parent), transport, study-related costs (books, computer etc.), potential medical needs (doctor appointments, dentist appointments, prescriptions and any other medical expenses).

When determining adult child maintenance amounts for children with disabilities or an illness, the court will look at whether or not the child is in such a dependant position and is incapable of supporting themselves. Evidence must be provided to prove that the child’s disabilities relies on the child’s need for financial support.

Applying for Adult Child Maintenance

Either a parent or the child who is turning 18 can apply for a child maintenance order to the Federal Court.

However, before attempting to make a Court application, both parents must try to reach an agreement, either with the help of a mediator or a family lawyer. If an agreement is met, the parties can lodge this agreement to the Federal Court. If an agreement cannot be met, then a court application must be filed.

To find out more about the process of applying for adult child maintenance, please give us a call!

Do You Require Legal Advice For Adult Child Maintenance?

If you want to apply for adult child maintenance and you believe your situation qualifies for financial support, a family lawyer from Emerson can help. We can also help you if you are being asked to continue child maintenance payments for a child over 18, and you don’t believe that child qualifies for support. Please contact us to see how we can represent you and your case.