A child support assessment usually ends the day before a child’s 18th birthday.
There is an exception where a child turns 18 years but is still completing high school. In those cases, child support ends on the last day of school provided the person receiving child support seeks the extension from the Child Support Agency before the child turns 18.
A court order can be made for a child over 18 if the Court is satisfied it is necessary:
- To enable the child to complete his or her education; or
- Because of the physical or mental disability of the child.
It is not necessary for the child to wait until their 18th birthday to seek the order and an application can be made when the child is 17. However, the order will not start until the child’s 18th birthday.
There are two basic requirements for an order:
- That the child has a need for financial support, and
- That the parents have the capacity to pay.
In considering maintenance for children undertaking further study, the Courts will consider these things:
- Whether the child has stopped being dependant on the parents,
- The length of time that has passed since the child ceased being dependant,
- Other assistance provided by the parents to the child,
- Any education already pursued by the child,
- The child’s ability to complete the course and whether it is realistic that he will do so,
- Whether the child has any capacity to support him/ herself, other than from a pension or benefit,
- The capacity of the parents to provide financial support,
- The nature of relationship between the child and the parent.
In considering the capacity of the parents to provide financial support the court will consider what the parent needs to support him or herself and any other person or child that the parent has a legal duty to support. What is “necessary” depends on the facts in the case. Generally, it is a reasonable standard of living so, by way of example, the costs associated with a family sedan would be regarded as necessary but a luxury porche would not.
Most orders contain a requirement for the child to notify the parent if they stop studying so that the order will stop. It is also common for orders to make it clear that support will be required for a first degree but not postgraduate study. This is intended to discourage long-term dependency.
This situation is quite different to one where the child suffers from a disability. In those circumstances, the responsibility to support the child will go on indefinitely unless the child’s medical condition ceases or they come into sufficient capital to provide for their own support (for example, from an insurance or common law payout).
Prepared by Andrew Crooke
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