Child support is financial support paid by one parent to another to meet the needs of their child/children.
In Australia, child support can operate in one of two ways:
- On a system of assessment; or
- On a system of agreement.
If you would like to learn more about original child support, please see this link for a more specific blog post in relation to this;
When parties to a Family Law matter engage in child support either through the Court or through agreement, there is often an assumption that the financial obligation to support a child ends when a child reaches adulthood.
So – you and your ex-spouse have an ongoing child support agreement and your child is due to turn 18 within the year. You know when a child turns 18, they become legally responsible for themselves and are considered an adult in the eyes of the law. But as we know – this does not mean that they are immediately able to financially support themselves. With the current arrangements in schools, we know that children are turning 18 during their final year in high school, so the expectation for them to be financially independent at this time, may be outdated.
You have heard that there is a chance you or your ex-spouse can apply to the Family Court to have this child support extend in certain situations where an adult child still needs financial support from their parents.
In such cases, the Family Court may be approached to decide whether child support maintenance should be paid if an agreement cannot be reached by the parties.
When is it appropriate
Under the Family Law Act, there is a provision for “adult child maintenance” to be paid in cases where it is deemed necessary to support an adult child in completing their education or due to their mental or physical disability. From here – you must ask yourself one of two questions;
- Does my child need further assistance whilst completing their education?;
- Does my child have a disability that would affect their ability to maintain gainful employment at present and in the future?
What are the determining factors?
The amount of adult child maintenance that one parent pays to another depends on various factors. Firstly, the court considers;
- The child’s essential expenses, i.e. housing, food, medical bills, and educational requirements like textbooks and laptops;
- The parents financial situation and their obligation to support other individuals that may be dependent on them (i.e. elderly family members or other siblings).
If you’re in a situation where you believe your soon-to-be adult child may need financial support, it’s essential to understand that adult child support maintenance isn’t intended to be punitive.
Instead, it’s meant to ensure that your child, who may not be able to support themselves, can still meet their basic needs. However, it’s not a given that such support will be granted – the child or parent making the request needs to provide evidence to the Family Court support their claim.
To make sure you’re handling the situation appropriately, it’s wise to discuss this with an experienced Family Lawyer. At Joss Legal, we can help you understand your legal rights and obligations, as well as work with you to create a plan that’s tailored to your family’s needs.
If you’re facing a situation where adult child support maintenance may be necessary, don’t hesitate to seek out the advice of an experienced family lawyer to help you navigate the legal process.