Many people think that parents’ financial responsibility towards a child officially ends when the child reaches the age of 18. In fact, this is not correct. After a child reaches 18, they, or their carer may qualify for adult child maintenance.
A court can make an order that a parent pay adult child maintenance. A child who is 18 years of age or older can also apply directly to the court for an order that their parent pay adult child maintenance for them.
A court will make an order for child maintenance only if it is satisfied that the maintenance is necessary to enable the child to complete his or her education or because the child has a mental or physical disability.
Education includes apprenticeship and vocational training.
The guiding principle that the court applies when determining whether to make an adult child maintenance order is what is reasonable. In assessing this the court will take into account the parent’s income, their earning capacity, what property they own and their financial resources. The court will have regard to the parent’s capacity to earn and derive an income, including their capacity to derive an income from any assets they hold.
The court will also take into account any commitments that the parent has and whether they are providing for other children.
Further, the court will consider the direct and indirect costs incurred by the parent who lives with the child in providing care for the child. The court will consider the income and earning capacity that the parent has forgone in providing that care. The court will also consider any special circumstances which would result in injustice or undue hardship if an order for adult child maintenance was made.
The applicant must show that the child is attempting to contribute to their own support, taking into account their course commitments, skills, and the availability of part-time work. The applicant has to also show that the maintenance sought for the child is ‘necessary.’ The court will look at the extent to which the child can meet the costs of their education from their own resources without seeking a contribution from anyone else.
The court will determine whether the parent has the capacity to pay adult child maintenance either in lump sum payments or in periodic payments.
Periodic maintenance is normally the preferred method because this can be adjusted over time in accordance with the changing needs and circumstances of the parties.
The court often will order that adult child maintenance be indexed in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.
The court may make an order of adult child maintenance for a limited number of years, such as for five years and be subject to review.
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