Child maintenance laws in the Family Law Act 1975 set out rules and regulations regarding child maintenance. But, what is child maintenance? Child maintenance is similar to child support, but it is only provided for children who are over 18. Although child support ends at 18, some children still need financial support even if they are over 18 if they:
- Are still finishing their school after 18 like tertiary education, training, or other relevant courses; and/or
- Have mental and physical disabilities that prevent them from securing financial resources.
In such cases, parents may make an agreement and have the court make a child maintenance order. If parties do not agree, one parent, a relative, the adult child, or any other person concerned with the adult child may apply for a child maintenance order. Read on to know more about child maintenance laws.
Section 66P and 66Q: Court Powers in Making Orders
According to Section 66P, courts have the power to make child maintenance orders and orders for payment arrangements. Both of the parent’s financial capacities will depend on how they will pay for child maintenance. Here are the different orders that the court may make during child maintenance proceedings:
- Lump sum payments (whether in one amount or instalments)
- Weekly, monthly, yearly, or other periodic amount forms of payments
- Specified transfer or settlement of property be made in the name of child maintenance
- Payment orders paid wholly or partly secured as the court specifies
- Orders for execution of any necessary instrument, document production, and any other factors that can help in effectively carrying out a child maintenance order
- Orders for payment to a specified person, public authority, or into court
- Permanent order
- Disposal of proceedings order
- Fixed period orders
- Stopping child maintenance orders until the adult child reaches a specific age
- Order for imposing terms and conditions
- Consent orders (where two parties agree to an arrangement)
- Any other appropriate orders
According to Section 66Q of child maintenance laws, courts may also make urgent child maintenance orders. However, both parties must satisfy the court that the child is in need of immediate financial support. The court may order the payment of such periodic or other amounts as the court deems appropriate. If they cannot determine the type of child maintenance order needed.
Section 66R: Specification in Orders of Payments
This section of child maintenance laws applies to child maintenance orders that were paid in a lump sum (whether in one amount or instalments), transfer of settlement of property. Moreover, this section applies to the transfer or settlement of property that makes provision for the maintenance of a child. If all of these orders apply, the court must specify the:
- Child or children who will receive the maintenance provision through payment, transfer, or settlement
- Exact portion of the payment
- Value of the portion of the property
Section 66S: Modifying Child Maintenance Orders
According to child maintenance laws, courts may only modify a child maintenance order that is made by the court or registered in a court. People who have applied for the child maintenance order may apply for the modification of a child maintenance order. If both parties agree to modify the child maintenance order, the court may:
- Discharge the first order if there are just causes for doing so
- Suspend the operation of the child maintenance order wholly or in part
- Suspend the operation of the child maintenance until the declaration of a further order or until a fixed time or happening of a future event.
- Vary the order to increase or decrease any child maintenance payments
- Vary the order in any other way
Child Maintenance Laws: Court Requirements for Modification
Courts will not easily grant the modification of a child maintenance order. Hence, parties will have to prove that the circumstances of their child have significantly changed. Courts may also modify an order if parties (whether the one receiving or paying child maintenance) can prove that their circumstances have changed. Courts must not vary an order unless they are satisfied that:
- Circumstances of the child or the parents have changed
- The order operates in favour of/is binding on a legal personal representative
- The cost of living has changed. Courts may no longer vary an order in regard to changes to the cost of living if 12 months have elapsed.
- The amount needed is not proper or adequate for orders made with consent
- There were false material facts presented before the finalisation of the order
- There are changes that have occurred in Consumer Price Index
Section 66SA: Varying the Maintenance of Certain Children
What is the difference between variation and modification of child maintenance orders? Modification of a child maintenance order refers to the act or result of making significant changes or improvements to the order. Whereas variation of a child maintenance order is making a partial change in the form, position, state, or qualities of an order.
This section of child maintenance laws applies to parties who agreed to deal with the maintenance of a child. People who are also entitled to receive or pay child maintenance under a court order are covered in this section. These people may register a written agreement in the family court to vary or revoke the original child maintenance agreement.
However, the registered agreement has limitations to variation or revocation. This is if the variation or revocation allows a child or another person’s entitlement (income-tested pension, allowance, or benefit) to affect the parents’ duty to maintain the adult child.
Understanding Child Maintenance Laws With Legal Advice
People who are paying or receiving child maintenance would prefer not to get mixed up with legal matters. However, this is not always the case since circumstances may change and some parties may even refuse to pay child maintenance. So, what can one do if one wants to seek legal advice about child maintenance?
JB Solicitors is a family-friendly law firm with an experienced team of lawyers that can handle a range of legal matters. Our team has the capacity to conduct quality legal research and litigation for matters like child maintenance. Parties who prefer a more cost-effective and out-of-court procedure can avail of our mediation and arbitration services.
Contact us today for more information about child maintenance laws.