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What is Adult Child Maintenance?

About the Author: Kristdel Bolog

Kristdel practices solely in Family Law has been a Partner at The Family Lawyer since June 2019. Aside from her amazing ability to recite from memory the entire “Ode to Spot” by Commander Data, she has a wealth of knowledge and practical experience from a decade in the field of family law. Kristdel’s passion for the law and a love of helping people through difficult times enables her to put peoples minds at ease, even during complicated or bitter family court proceedings. As our resident “empath” she is The Family Lawyers’ Counsellor and is always there to listen to her colleagues or clients and bring a smile to their faces. Her nickname around the office is “the nerd”, a badge she wears proudly. Kristdel is hardworking, knowledgeable and dedicated to getting great outcomes for her clients. You can contact her at kbolog@thefamilylawyer.com.au or on 03 8657 3751.
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February 20, 2021

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As a parent, you are able to seek an order for adult child maintenance if you can show the court that the maintenance is necessary to enable a child to complete her education, or if the child is disabled. The child does not have to already be 18 for you to seek this order; you are able to apply for adult child maintenance whilst the child is 17 to take effect when she turns 18.

A child who is over 18 is able to get financial support from a parent if the child:

  • is completing their secondary or tertiary education – they are at high school, TAFE, university, or a course at a private college (apprenticeships may also be included)
  • has a serious illness
  • has a physical or mental disability.

An adult child who is married or living in a de-facto relationship is not able to get adult child maintenance.

A Case Study: Charlton & Crosby [2010] FMCAfam 207

In Charlton & Crosby, the mother was seeking a maintenance order with respect to a child who, since proceedings had commenced, had turned 18. In this case, the child was enrolled in a six year university double-degree and was studying full-time. The child lived with the mother and was estranged from the father.

The mother argued that the child was entirely financially dependent on her. She argued that he required ongoing financial support in order to complete his undergraduate education. The mother estimated the child’s weekly expenses to be approximately $420 per week and asserted that the father should contribute at least 42% of this. She argued that the child was a diligent student and was not able to work concurrently whilst completing his studies. The father argued that this was an inflated estimate, and submitted that the wife did not give any regard to the child’s ability to provide his own financial support; particularly, the child had won scholarships in the past and indicated that he was able to tutor other students, as well as seek part-time employment.

Based on the preceding considerations, the court determined that:

  • It was expected in this family that the mother and father would provide financially with respect to the child’s schooling and undergraduate education;
  • It was necessary for the parents to provide the child with a degree of financial support, as he would not be able to fully support himself whilst completing his undergraduate studies;
  • It was reasonable that the child provide for half of his projected financial needs;

The fact that the father was estranged from the son meant that:

  • He would not be able to guide his child academically;
  • His support would be largely thankless; and
  • He would not be able to enjoy the child’s academic achievements.

With respect to the financial resources of each parent, the court found that both parents had similar incomes and earning potential. However, because the child had been estranged from the father for several years, the court did not think it proper for both parents to contribute equally or in the terms sought by the mother.

Ultimately, the court found that the father should contribute 20% of the child’s expenses. This amounted to $3,000 per year and totalled $12,000 for the remaining four years of study that the child was to complete. The court ordered that the $12,000 sum be placed in an interest bearing account and that at the beginning of each year $3,000 be released in each year that the child would be engaged in study. However, this order was qualified with the provision that if the child ceased studying or commenced full-time work, the father’s funds would be refunded.

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