Does Child Maintenance Stop When The Child Turns 18? Not Necessarily So.
Financial support or child maintenance is governed by the Child Support Act until the child becomes an adult at the age of 18 at which time the jurisdiction of the child support agency ceases.
Whilst the Child Support Agency has jurisdiction to manage child support, the Family Court with some exceptions cannot make orders for the financial support of the child under the age of 18 years.
The jurisdiction of the Child Support Agency ceases at 18 and orders can then be sort for a child’s financial support in the Family Court.
What are the criteria for such an application?
For instance, a child might be a full time student at University and does not have the means or ability to financially support him or herself during the course of the studies. This is a matter which would be assessed by the court.
How Does the Court Go About Child Maintenance?
Either the child or a parent can apply to the Family Court for the financial support of an adult child. Once the court assesses that the child does require financial support then it will look to the parents for that support and will assess each parents ability to provide financial support based on the incomes of each parent and the financial ability of each parent to provide the financial support. This could mean that one parent is assessed to pay more than the other to assist the child financially.
An adult child may require financial support because of medical reasons. For example, in a recent decision a child had significant health problems having being diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. In her adult years she was diagnosed with Diabetes related to her Cystic Fibrosis and had an obsessive-compulsive disorder that was unrelated to that condition. As a result of her health, she needed regular physiotherapy 4-5 times a week throughout her life. She required a range of medications for her various medical conditions and required psychiatric assistance with her obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Adult child maintenance was assessed in relation to this child in the following form:
- $620 per week increasing to $688 in the following year
- Cost of private health insurance and visits to medical practitioners
- A one off lump sum of $10,000 to enable her to purchase any vehicle to use as her transport.
The father of the child was ordered to pay these amounts. He appealed that decision. The appellant court considered :
- Was there a necessary element that there be a warm relationship between the child and the parent;
- Was it necessity to conduct a detailed examination of this relationship.
The appellant court made a thorough examination of the expenses for the child in particular the requirements to purchase a motor vehicle in the sum of the $10,000 when the child could easily use and because of her medical condition she was not precluded from using public transport. After giving careful consideration to these matters the courts made adjustments to the child maintenance to be paid.
The court also gave consideration to when child maintenance should cease. It had been ordered to continue until the child completed tertiary education which was not a defined time period.
The requirements to financially support children, therefore, can continue after the child reaches 18 years of age.