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Adult Child Support – Can and When Will the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia make an Order for the Financial Support of an Adult Child – Time Limits Apply

15/11/2021

Watson & Watson recently received instructions on behalf of the husband and father in a property division and divorce case. 

At that time the mother and father were separated.  The two children of the marriage were at different ages and at different stages of their life.  The oldest child had completed secondary school and had obtained a tertiary qualification.  He lived at home whilst studying.  He had commenced working in his chosen field. 

The younger child was two years away from finishing her secondary education and wanted to and expected to enrol in tertiary education. 

Both parents wished to ensure that the youngest child received the same financial support as the eldest child had received during his tertiary studies.  Circumstances had changed and the parents of the youngest child, were separated and living apart. 

The father had understood that he would only have to pay child support up until the youngest child reached the age of 18 years and that if he did wish to pay for tertiary education, that was a matter for him. 

Watson & Watson advised the father in relation to the capacity of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to order payment of maintenance for the child after she reached the age of 18 years.

When Can the Court Make an Order for Adult Child Maintenance?

The Court can only make an order for adult child maintenance in relation to a child who is 17 years and the Order takes effect when or after the child turns 18 years. 

It is therefore essential that the application for adult child maintenance be made before the child attains the age of 18 years. 

What is the Law?

The Family Law Act (section 66(L)) provides the Court with the power to Order that one or both parents provide financial support to a child who reaches or is over the age of 18 years.

The Family Court may only order a parent to pay to the other parent maintenance for an adult child:

  • To enable a child to complete their education including tertiary education, vocational training, professional support, training or an apprenticeship. 
  • Because of the mental or physical disability of the child.
  • The application for the maintenance can be made to the Federal Circuit Court by the child, a parent of the child or a grandparent of the child or another concerned person.

In determining whether or not to make the Order, the Court will consider a number of factors and that includes:

  • The income and earning capacity of the parent. 
  • The cost to each parent of his or her own support and or other children they have a legal duty to maintain.
  • The capacity of the child to bring in their own income such as from work. 
  • The closeness of the dependence on the child and the parent.

Outcome

In this matter the property division Orders prepared by Watson & Watson included an Order for payment of adult child support which Order was made by the Family Court of Australia before the child attained the age of 18 years.  The Order came into effect and operation when the child attained the age of 18 years.  This order was in accordance with the wishes of both the father and mother of the child and was a factor in determining the overall property division between the husband and wife.

When it comes to financial settlement, it is important to consider the needs of your child or children of the relationship.  While you may be severing the ties of a relationship with your estranged spouse or partner, you wish to preserve the ties of the relationship you have with your child/ren.  Parents want what is in the best interest of their child/ren and being able to provide financial support to your child/ren is a positive step in circumstances that can often be, emotionally complex. 

At Watson & Watson our Senior Family Law Solicitors can assist you in navigating child support issues as well contact arrangements and parenting matters.  Often these matters are considered with the resolution of property issues.  Please contact Richard Watson Senior Family Law Solicitor or his Personal Assistant Shereen Da Gloria to discuss your matter and seek appropriate advice on this important matter.

This is only a preliminary view and is not to be taken as legal advice without first contacting Watson & Watson Solicitors on 9221 6011.

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