Unfortunately, raising a child comes with a price tag. Statistics on the cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood are often thrown around, ranging anywhere between $400,000 and $800,000 for two children.
For many parents, supporting their children doesn’t stop when they turn 18. While legally they can vote and consume alcohol, most 18-year olds are fresh out of high school with little financial independence. The opportunity to attain financial independence is less feasible if they wish to complete tertiary study and as a result, many remain living with their parents and receiving support from them in the way of food and even direct finances.
For children with separated parents, child support payments automatically stop when they turn 18. This can present difficulties to an 18-year old child still in school, studying or with special needs. To address these situations, an Australian court can make a child maintenance order.
What is Adult Child Maintenance?
Child maintenance is financial support given to a child who is over 18 years. It is usually paid by the parent who doesn’t reside with the child and given to the parent who lives with the child to assist with necessary expenses. However, child maintenance can also be paid by both parents or under certain circumstances a child’s step-parent.
A child maintenance agreement can be arranged between two parents, or between a parent and the child. In these cases the agreement would be put into writing, filed with a court and made into a ‘consent’ order. If the parties cannot reach an agreement then they may undergo dispute resolution before the matter is brought before a court who decides if a child maintenance order should be made as well as the terms.
Child maintenance shouldn’t be confused with child support which refers to support given to children under 18 through an administrative assessment by the Department of Human Services (formerly the Child Support Agency).
When Does Adult Child Maintenance Apply?
Child maintenance applies where a child over 18 is studying (this includes secondary and tertiary education such as high school, university, TAFE or an apprenticeship) or where a child over 18 has a physical or mental disability, or serious illness.
A court needs to be satisfied that a child maintenance order will enable the adult child to finish their education or the child has a physical or mental disability, or serious illness.
Working Out Adult Child Maintenance
The amount of maintenance depends upon:
- the child’s necessary expenses
- each parent’s financial position
- the amount a parent needs to support themselves and any other dependant persons
Necessary expenses include everyday items like food, housing, utilities and household supplies. Expenses surrounding study such as textbooks, internet and technology can also be included in addition to medical expenses.
A child maintenance order may include a provision for the conclusion of payments. It may finish after a specified time, for example after a number of years, or when a particular event occurs, for example a child completes their education.
Who Can Apply?
An application for child maintenance can be made by:
- the parent with whom the adult child is living
- the adult child
- a grandparent of the adult child
- anyone else concerned with the care and welfare of the child
The application can be made by a parent when the child is 17 to begin when the child turns 18 or it can be made after the child has turned 18.
Organising Adult Child Maintenance
It’s important to seek advice from an experienced family lawyer before applying for any child maintenance. Even if both parents and the child have an amicable relationship, you should still seek legal advice before entering an agreement.
The family law team at Taylor & Scott will be able to advise on appropriate terms and entitlements to ensure a fair agreement is drawn up and formalised so that it can be enforced if necessary. They can also guide you through the entire process from putting together the agreement to having it filed in court.
If your matter requires a hearing in court, Taylor & Scott can represent you and put forward a strong case to ensure a child receives necessary care.
To arrange a meeting with a family law specialist who understands the complexities and emotional significance of such a case contact Taylor & Scott.
At Taylor & Scott “We Care For You”.