The law says parents have an obligation to financially support their children. The financial support of children can take two forms, either child support or child maintenance.
To explain the differences briefly:
- Child support is paid by a parent and relates to the financial support of children under 18 years of age and is applied for through the Child Support Agency (CSA).
- Child maintenance is paid by a parent and relates to the support of children over 18 years of age (adult children) for educational and medical expenses and is applied for through the courts.
Most parents will manage their child support obligations through the CSA, the agency responsible for administering the child support scheme. The CSA uses a complicated formula to assess the child support payable by a parent, considering many factors including the following:
- The costs of children in various age ranges;
- The capacity of the parents to meet those costs;
- The income of the parents; and
- The time that each of the parents spend with the child.
It is not possible for parents to contract out of the child support scheme. However it is possible to enter into a private child support agreement, tailored to your specific needs. A child support agreement is often useful to accommodate the payment of private school fees, medical expenses, large lump sum payments or other additional payments which the CSA will not consider. A child support agreement is enforceable in the court in the event the paying parent does not comply with the terms of the agreement.
At Taylor & Scott, our family lawyers can help you with any and all child support matters, including advice to help you understand the child support laws, your assessment, whether you have the ability to seek a change to the assessment (called a departure order) and whether a child support agreement is right for you. It is important to remember that time limits apply in child support matters and it is important to seek advice quickly.
The obligation to pay child support ends when a child turns 18 or finishes school (whichever is later). However, the reality for many “children” over 18 is that they remain living at one parent’s home whilst they complete university or technical studies.
Although a parent is not liable to pay child support for an adult child, the Family Law Act (different to the child support legislation) provides that a parent may be required to financially support an adult child if it is necessary for one of the following reasons:
- To enable the child to complete their education; or
- Because of a mental or physical disability of the child.
Unlike child support which ends when a child turns 18, child maintenance may be payable by one parent indefinitely in circumstances where the child has a mental or physical disability.
Adult child maintenance is not administered through the CSA and can only be ordered by the court. If you are a parent of an adult child or an adult child yourself and you fit into one of the above categories, we can advise you as to whether you are able to apply for child maintenance.
If you or someone you know needs expert advice from our specialist team of family lawyers, phone us on 1800 600 664 or complete the contact form on this page.
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