The government-based Child support scheme ceases to operate after a child turns 18. One notable exception to this is when a child turns 18, and they are still attending secondary school. In such a case, an application can be made to the Department of Human Services – Child Support for the child support assessment to be extended until the last day of school. An application of this nature should be made prior to the child turning 18, and after they turn 17.
Once a child has turned 18, all child support matters are dealt with via agreement with the other parent, or through the Family Court System.
Continued Support After Secondary School
Another exception to the general rule is where a child has a physical or mental disability, or is attending further tertiary education, such as TAFE or University. An adult child or a parent can make an application through the Family Courts for further maintenance. This is known as “adult child maintenance”.
Adult Child Maintenance for Tertiary Education
When a matter for adult child maintenance about tertiary education comes before the Court, a number of factors will determine whether maintenance is warranted, and to what extend, this include (but are not limited to):
- Whether financial dependence between the adult child and their parents has ceased, and for how long. The court is often reluctant to resurrect this dependence after an extended period;
- The nature of the course, the estimated costs to be incurred and the prospect for employment at the completion of, or towards the completion of, the course;
- Previous assistance and benefits available to the adult child;
- The ability of the adult child to provide his or her own financial support. This includes the ability of the adult child to work part-time during the semester, or full-time during breaks;
- The ability of the adult child to complete the course;
- The financial circumstances of the parents, or other persons who would be tasked with payments.
Note as to University Fees – the Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) scheme administered by the Commonwealth Government allows a student to defer payment of course fees until they are earning a certain income. The Court therefore excludes the payment of those fees when calculating the amount of financial support a child requires.
The maintenance will either be directly paid to:
- The parent or guardian that the Adult Child is living with; or
- The Adult Child.
A parent or adult child can ask the Department of Human Services – Child Support to collect any maintenance payable on their behalf.