Upon the breakdown of a relationship, a common concern is what will happen to the children involved. In Australia, child support and child maintenance exist to ensure that children receive the financial support they need.
While many people use the terms ‘child support’ and ‘child maintenance’ interchangeably, there are important legal differences between these two types of financial obligations. Here, our child support lawyers explain the similarities and differences between child support and child-maintenance to help you make sense of post-separation payments.
When are Child Support and Child Maintenance Relevant?
When parties with children separate from either a de facto relationship or marriage, both parental parties have a duty to provide adequate support to the children, irrespective of agreed living arrangements.
It is through this ‘duty to maintain’ principle that both child support and child maintenance schemes operate.
Both child support and child maintenance are regulated by the Federal Department of Human Services in accordance with Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 which states that a child’s best interests are of paramount consideration in making a parenting order.
What is the Difference Between Child Support and Child Maintenance?
To put it simply, the difference between child support and child maintenance is that child support is financial support for children under the age of 18 whereas child maintenance is financial support for adult children over the age of 18.
When it comes to child support, parents have the option to put a private agreement in place. However, if an amicable agreement cannot be made, either party can apply to the Department of Human Services (Child Support) via Services Australia for an administrative assessment to determine the amount of support payable.
This assessment takes a number of factors into account, including the adjusted taxable income of both parents, the general costs associated with care for the child as well as the time each parent spends in the caregiver role.
In contrast, child maintenance is paid when the child support legislation is no longer applicable due to the child being over the age of 18, but there is still a need for ongoing financial support. When a court orders child maintenance to be paid, typically it is because they have found that the financial support is necessary for the adult child to complete their schooling, or because the adult child has a disability or illness which requires care.
It is worth noting that applications for court-ordered maintenance can also be made if a child has acquired a mental or physical disability after turning 18.
Are You in a Situation Involving Child Support or Child Maintenance?
As with many areas of family law, if you are involved in a situation which may involve child support or child maintenance then it is important to speak to an experienced family lawyer. At Emerson Family Law our child support lawyers can help you navigate the complex field of children’s matters, and assist you in achieving your desired outcome. Please contact us to see how we can help.