Australia: Child support and adult child maintenance: What am I obligated to pay?
In 1989 the federal government introduced a new child support scheme through the Child Support (Assessment) Act 189 (Cth) (the Act) which limited the Family Court's involvement in child support matters. The Child Support Agency is responsible for assessing the amount to be paid, arranging collection and payment of child support. All parents are required to contribute to the financial support of children, including married or divorced couples, de-facto couple relationships and same-sex relationships.
The legislation outlines the formula to be applied in determining how much child support is to be paid. The formula considers a range of factors including:
The adjustable taxable income of each parent;
The amount of time the child or children spend with each parent; and
Whether either parent has care of any other dependent children.
The child support formula includes an allocated amount for self-support for each parent. To calculate an estimate of child support payable please use the following link
If a child will turn 18 in the final year of full time secondary education you may consider lodging an application with the Child Support Agency for the child support assessment to be extended until the child's final day of the school year under section 151B of the Act. For further information on this application we recommend that you contact the child support agency.
Binding Child Support Agreements
If parents reach a private agreement about child support payable we recommend that they consider entering a Binding Child Support Agreement to ensure enforceability of that agreement.
A binding child support agreement is effectively a contract between the parents on matters of child support. This can include a periodic or lump sum amount of child support and commonly covers additional matters such as private education fees, health insurance and extra-curricular activities.
A binding child support agreement must be made in writing and signed by both parties. Both parties are required to receive independent legal advice.
Binding child support agreements are usually registered with the Child Support Agency. The Child Support Agency can then arrange collection of the child support payable under the agreement or payment can be made privately.
Adult Child Maintenance
In some circumstances the Family Court may make an order that child maintenance be paid for a dependent child over the age of 18 where a child has special needs due to education, training, mental or physical handicap. Under section 66L the Family Law Act 1975, the Family Court may make a child maintenance order:
To enable the child to complete his or her education; or
Because of a mental or physical disability of a child.
In considering whether an order should be made to assist an adult child in their education the court will consider factors such as:
Whether maintenance is necessary for the child to complete their education;
Whether a maintenance order is reasonable in the circumstances;
The financial position of the parents;
The likeliness of the child succeeding in their studies; and
The child's income earning capacity (not including government benefits).
In taking into account the proper needs of a child, the Court must have regard to the age of the child, the manner in which the child is being or is expected by the parents to be educated or trained and any special needs of the child. The Court may have regard to any relevant published research in relation to the cost of maintaining children.
It was recently determined that there does not need to be a "warm relationship" between the child and the parent for an order of adult child maintenance to be made. It is important to note that education has been given a broad application by the court and can include tertiary university courses, TAFE courses and apprenticeships.
When considering whether child maintenance should be paid for a child undertaking tertiary education, the Court would probably consider –
whether the course being pursued by the child is going to help the child earn an income;
whether the child appears to be qualified to pursue and profit from the course;
whether the child had scholarship assistance or other income;
what hardship would result to the child if he had to abandon the course through lack of means and
whether the parent asked to pay has the means to assist.