Adult Child Maintenance – The Basics

Blog post by Daniel Sampson


When can Adult Children apply for Maintenance?

Financial Support for parents or others with the care of children is generally dealt with by the provision of the Child Support Assessment Act and the administration of that legislation by the Department of Human Services – Child Support. But what happens when children turning 18 or already adult children require further support? Under what circumstances can ‘adult children’ seek maintenance from their parents?

The Concept of Maintenance in Family Law

Where there is a need of a child, and that need is justified and reasonable, a parent (or parents) with the capacity to support the child, should attend to those needs as much as can be determined to be reasonable. Maintenance does not mean subsistence, but enough support to allow the child to have their reasonable needs met. There are many factors but ultimately the determination of a reasonable amount of maintenance will be a balancing act between the capacity of the parent or parents to pay and the child’s reasonable needs in the circumstances.

The Health and Education

Under section 66L of the Family Law Act, the Family courts may make orders for maintenance of children over 18 years:

  1. To enable a child to complete their education; or
  2. Because of a physical or mental disability.

Such orders can be applied for after the child is 17 years old in anticipation of his or her upcoming 18th birthday.

Who can apply?

Under the act, a child, a parent, grandparent or any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child may apply for maintenance for the child from a parent.

Is there an Age Limit?

Per se, there is no limit to the age of the ‘adult child’. A parent under the provisions of the Family Law Act may have a responsibility to their disabled child even if that disability occurs after age 18. There is likely to be a common sense approach to the concept of ‘completing’ a child’s education at the secondary or tertiary level.

Common Applications

It is usual for a child embarking on tertiary education to make an application seeking support from a financially well-off parent. It may also be that they require additional assistance with respect to their particular field. The court will balance the need of the child with the capacity of the parents.

In terms of physical or mental disability, it is common for the carers of children transitioning from the Child Support System to seek further maintenance.

Case Examples

In the matter of Re: AM (Adult Child Maintenance) (2006), an adult child sought maintenance from a parent after he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that stopped him being able to work. He was 28. The court found that he was entitled to periodic payments from his father.

In the matter of A and A (1981), a 16-year-old child applied for maintenance from his parents while in the care of his uncle. The maintenance was for the child’s participation in an overseas sporting event that he was deemed to show some talent in. In a contemporary setting his uncle may have been able to deal with these issues through the Department of Human Services – Child Support.

For more information on adult child maintenance, please contact Daniel Sampson from Culshaw Miller Lawyers.