When Does Child Support End in Australia?
In Australia, child support exists to ensure that children under 18 are financially supported in the case of their parents separating or divorcing. But what determines how much child support should be paid by parents, and when does child support end in Australia?
Following the separation or divorce of a couple with children, both parents have an obligation to financially support their children irrespective of living arrangements. This means that it is typically in the parents’ best interests to reach an amicable agreement about how child support payments will be structured moving forwards.
However, if there is a dispute between former partners regarding the amount of child support to be paid and they are unable to reach an agreement, an application can be made to Services Australia (formerly the Department of Human Services). Services Australia provides child support assessments under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth), which determine exactly how much each parent is obligated to pay.
What Determines the Amount of Child Support to Be Paid?
Calculating child support payments can be complex and given the unique nature of each person’s circumstance, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, child support payments are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Services Australia determines child support payments based on a variety of factors, including:
- The number of children;
- The adjusted taxable income of both parents;
- Each parent’s percentage of care (calculated by this formula);
- The general costs associated with care for the child; and
- The money each parent needs to support themselves.
Once Services Australia’s assessment is complete, a letter will be sent to the relevant parties reporting on the assessment and providing a lump sum amount to be paid regularly to the child’s primary caregiver.
The caregiver receiving the child support payments can use them to cover typical expenses related to raising a child, such as school fees, medical costs, food, housing and clothing.
When Does Child Support End in Australia?
A common question received by our family lawyers is: when does child support end in Australia? In other words, in what circumstances will a parent currently making regular child support payments be able to cease paying?
Typically, child support ends in Australia when the child turns 18 and is considered an adult in the eyes of the law.
Another less common situation when child support ends in Australia is if the child marries or becomes a member of a couple. For example, they:
- Become legally married to another person and are not living separately from the other person on an indefinite or permanent basis;
- Are living with another person as the partner of the other person on a genuine domestic basis; or
- Are in a relationship with another person which is registered under the law of a State or Territory and they are not living separately from the other person on an indefinite or permanent basis.
In the above circumstances child support payments will usually cease, but there are certain exceptions. It is important to note that you can apply to have payments continue for children over the age of 18: this type of support is called child maintenance as opposed to child support.
Child maintenance applies when the child support legislation no longer applies due to the child being over 18, but ongoing financial support is still required.
This is covered in Section 66L of the Family Law Act 1975, and may apply in cases where:
- The child is still at school and requires financial support until they graduate;
- The child is completing their tertiary education (such as TAFE or university); or
- The child has an illness or disability which requires ongoing care.
These child maintenance costs can be used to cover the adult child’s costs associated with living expenses, educational costs and medical expenses.
If you are considering applying for a child maintenance order, it is prudent to consult an experienced family lawyer who can guide you through the process and give you the best chance of success in your application.
Need Legal Advice About When Child Support Ends in Australia?
At Pullos Lawyers, our experienced team of family lawyers have over 30 years of experience dealing with cases involving child support, child maintenance and spousal maintenance. We can help make parenting orders, apply for child support payments and explain when child support ends in Australia in your situation.
To speak to one of our lawyers today, please get in touch via email, or call us in our Gold Coast office on (07) 5526 3646, or in Brisbane on (07) 3144 1641.