A child who is over 18 is able to get financial support from a parent if the child:
- is completing their secondary or tertiary education – they are at high school, TAFE, university, or a course at a private college (apprenticeships may also be included)
- has a serious illness
- has a physical or mental disability.
This is called adult child maintenance.
An adult child who is married or living in a de facto relationship is not able to get adult child maintenance.
If there is agreement
Applying for an order
Either the parent or the child can apply for an adult child maintenance order against the other parent:
- when a child is 17, to begin when the child turns 18, or
- after the child has turned 18.
It is helpful for the adult child to show that they are trying to pay for some of their own support, for example, by working part-time or looking for work. Getting such as Youth Allowance and Austudy is not considered income that will stop an adult child from applying for maintenance. However, the court will take into account study commitments, illness or disability, personal/work skills and availability of part-time work.
Working out how much maintenance
How much maintenance is paid depends on:
- the adult child’s ''
- each parent’s financial position (including how much they are capable of earning)
- the amount a parent needs to support themselves and any other person that they have a duty to look after.
If you and the other parent cannot agree, the court will decide how much needs to be paid.
Necessary expenses include:
- the adult child’s share of food, household supplies, utilities, housing and transport (even if this is paid by a parent)
- to do with study, such as books, internet fees and computer equipment, TAFE fees (but not HECS and other government loans)
- medical needs including optical, dental, doctors visits, prescriptions and other medical expenses (after any payments from Medicare or private health cover).
Maintenance may also pay for clothing, toiletries, hairdressing, car and phone expenses. Entertainment and social expenses are generally not included.
Organising adult child maintenance
If you and the other parent agree, or the child and paying parent agree
You can make an agreement between yourselves. Decide on amounts and dates that payments will be made.
If you cannot reach agreement
If family dispute resolution is not suitable for you, or if it does not work, you can apply to the court for a decision.
The order can be registered with Services Australia (Child Support) if the order is between both parents. They will collect maintenance payments from the paying parent and pay it to the receiving parent, for the child.
If the court order is between the child and a parent, it cannot be registered with Services Australia. The paying parent must pay the child privately, according to the details of the court order.
The court may decide that the order stops when:
- the adult child finishes their education, for example, completes their qualification. The court may not make an order for a second degree or qualification if the adult child continues studying
- a particular time period has ended, for example, three years to allow the adult child to finish their education. There may be conditions in the order, such as proof of passing subjects. If the adult child fails a subject, the order may stop
- the adult child no longer has the particular illness or disability, or after a particular period of time, for example three years, to review the child’s illness or disability.
The parent or adult child must tell the paying parent if there are any changes to the child’s education, illness or disability.
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
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Reviewed 12 April 2022