Adult Child Support and Maintenance

Article 09 April 2021

In most cases, child support is payable until children reach the age of 18. In some situations however, ongoing maintenance may be payable for children who are over the age of 18 if they remain financially dependent on their parents or carers.

Who can apply for adult child maintenance?

An adult child, a parent, a grandparent or any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child can make an application for adult child maintenance.

When can adult child maintenance be sought?

Adult child maintenance can be sought in circumstances where the child has severe health issues, disabilities, or remains financially dependent on their parents and/or carers for many years after they are legally considered to be an ‘adult.’

In such cases, the child support liability will fall outside the scope of the Child Support Scheme.  The Family Law Act (the act) provides options enforcing the liability on parents to contribute to the financial support of the child, even if that child is aged over 18. 

Section 66L of the act grants the Court the power to make an order for the maintenance of a child over the age of 18, if it is necessary, to enable the child to either complete their education, or because the child has a mental or physical disability.

For separated parents, discussing ongoing contributions for the financial support of their adult child or children can be a difficult and contentious conversation.  

If parents cannot reach a mutual agreement, they may be eligible to apply to the Court for an Order for child maintenance.

The Family Law Courts have the power to make such Orders in relation to a child over the age of 18 if the child meets one of the following criterias:

  1. Because of a mental or physical disability of the child; or
  2. To enable a child to complete his or her education.

The Court also considers the following factors to be relevant when determining an application for child maintenance:

  • the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the parents;
  • the amount the parents need to support themselves or any other children the parent has a duty to maintain;
  • the capacity of the adult child to earn an income (government entitlements and allowances are disregarded);
  • whether the course to be pursued by the child is going to help the child to earn an income;
  • the likelihood that the adult child will finish the course of study;
  • the hardship that will result to the child if they have to abandon the course through lack of means;
  • the nature of the parent and child relationship;
  • whether the studies are post graduate qualifications;
  • whether the adult child has refused reasonable job offers, including from the parent; and
  • the attitude of the adult child towards the parent.

For how long is adult child maintenance sought?

Child maintenance is similar in nature to child support in that it may specify a periodic amount (i.e. weekly or fortnightly amount for the period of the child’s study) or a lump sum payment.  However, unlike child support, the amount payable is not determined by the Child Support Agency.

It is for the Court to determine the proper amount and the time period for which it should be paid, giving consideration to what is necessary to maintain the child, the child’s age, any education the child is undertaking and/or any special needs of the child.

For more information, or for advice on seeking adult child maintenance, contact Maidei Kutsanzira at CDQ Lawyers on ph 02 8556 0130.