An application for extension of child support may be filed for a child who is about to turn 18 on the grounds of completion of education, mental or physical disability of the child.A child support assessment is generally terminated once the child turns 18 years old. Once a person turns 18, he is already an adult in society capable of financially supporting himself.
A parent’s financial responsibility over a child is also deemed terminated once the child becomes 18, already an adult. Section 66L of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that a court shall not make a maintenance order for a child who has reached 18 years of age or an order the effects of which would reach beyond the 18 years of the child.
This means that a child can no longer be the subject of a maintenance order or child support once he becomes 18.
However, the same provision of law provides an exception and that is if the court is satisfied that the maintenance is necessary for the child to complete his education or if the child is physically or mentally disabled. These three circumstances, completion of education, mental and physical disability are the three main grounds whenever applying for adult child maintenance.
With respect to the child who will be attending secondary education when he turns 18, the receiving parent of the child support can request the Department of Human Services to extend the child support until the end of the secondary school year. An application may also be filed with the court under Section 66L of the Family Law Act. The application must be filed after the child turns 17 years but before he turns 18. The child must be enrolled as a full-time student in secondary education.
The child support assessment or agreement may be extended until the last day of the secondary education provided that day is within the 365 days from the 18th birthday of the child. Full-time secondary education pertains to the period that is prescribed by a secondary education school that includes a term, semester or school holiday break and the child comes back after the end of the holiday to continue his secondary education.
An application for adult child maintenance may be applied for by the carer or the adult child himself. It is important that the application for adult child maintenance will indicate the name of the child, the name of the school or college where he will be attending secondary education, a statement whether the child will be in full-time secondary education on his 18th birthday and the last day of the secondary education school year.
If the child support is given by agreement, the application must be made in writing and signed by both the parents. However, if the tenor of the child support agreement provides that child support shall extend beyond the 18 years of the child then it is sufficient if it is the carer alone who applies for the extension.
Once the Registrar has accepted an application for adult child maintenance the child support will not be terminated when the child turns 18 years old. Rather, the terminating event will be the last day of the secondary school year or if the child stops his being in full-time secondary education.
An application for adult child maintenance based on the mental or physical disability of the child must include medical evidence that the condition of the child needs ongoing financial support. The medical evidence must also show the future prognosis for the child.
Since it is the child’s medical condition that is involved, the termination of the child support will not be so easily determined as compared to if the ground is the completion of education. The continuation of the child support and the terminating event, if there will be one, will be left to the discretion of the court which will decide on the basis of the medical evidence presented, the financial capacity of the payer and the needs of the child.
The Registrar will inform the parent-payer and the carer in writing whether the application was accepted or denied. If either party is not in conformity with the assessment they may file an objection.