Separated parents have a legal obligation to provide for their children. But is it possible for a parent to be ordered to financially support an adult child?
The jurisdiction of the Child Support Agency is extinguished when a child turns 18. After this time, orders can be sought for a child’s financial support in the Family Court under the Family Law Act.
The Family Court has the power to make an order for the maintenance of a child over the age of 18 if it is necessary to enable the child to either complete their education or because the child has a mental or physical disability.
Adult Child Maintenance – What does the Family Court consider?
Adult Child maintenance orders are decided on a case by case basis, based on what is considered to be reasonable in each particular case.
The Court will consider if there is a need for a continuing financial relationship between the child and the parent. For example, the child might be a full-time student at University who does not have the means or ability to support financially himself or herself. Or the child may require continuing financial support due to medical reasons.
It is not necessary for a “warm relationship” to exist, or even for there to be regular contact between the parent and child for maintenance to be awarded.
The Court will balance the parents’ resources and the child’s actual and potential resources in determining the claim. The Court will also consider other ways the child could finance their education, such as deferring their studies, obtaining part-time employment or studying part-time.
How Does the Court Go About Assessing 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 determines that the child does require financial support, then it will look to the parents for their respective contributions to that support and will assess each parent’s 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.
The Court, when deciding to Order child maintenance has a wide discretion and can determine if the maintenance should be paid in a lump sum, or by instalments.
Child Support is possible for an adult child.
The obligation to financially support children can therefore continue after the child reaches 18 years of age.
In any case, there should be a cost/benefit analysis of your personal circumstances, and the costs of seeking an order for adult child maintenance, to decide whether or not making an application is the right decision for you and your child. Please consult one of our experienced Family Lawyers regarding the legal costs for each stage of your matter.