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Child support is payable until child is 25 Years old - Perhaps !

Questions in the House regarding the clarification of child support liability for paying parents ceases when the child reaches 18 years of age

Hansard - Questions in Writing

House of Representatives
Thursday 18 August 2005, Page 289

Youth Allowance
(Question No. 1679)

Ms Kelly Hoare asked the Minister representing the Minister for Family and Community Services, in writing, on 14 June 2005:

(1) Can he confirm that, for the purposes of Youth Allowance, young people are considered dependent on their parents until they are 25 years of age.

(2) Can he confirm that child support liability for paying parents ceases when the child reaches 18 years of age except in the circumstances where the young person continues schooling for the remainder of that school year.

(3) Can he explain the reasons for the difference between social security and child support legislation with respect to the age a young person is assumed to be independent.

(4) Can he confirm that education costs have risen by an average of 7.7 per cent as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over 2004 compared with a general CPI increase of 2.4 per cent over the same period and that this has resulted in an increase in the financial burden on the families of young people in education.

(5) Can he confirm that the child support liability of a paying parent ceases when the child reaches 18 years of age unless otherwise ordered by the Court; if so, will he propose amendments to the child support legislation to ensure paying parents continue payments in respect of young people over 18 years of age undertaking further education and, if he will not, why not.

Mr Joe Hockey - The Minister for Family and Community Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) The Minister for Workforce Participation has advised that under Youth Allowance, all young people are considered to be dependent unless they meet independence criteria e.g. Unreasonable to Live at Home, has dependent child, self-supporting, turns 25 years of age, etc. If a young person does not meet one of these independence criteria they are considered to be dependent on their parents. :'(

Maximum age provisions also determine whether a young person is qualified for Youth Allowance. These differ for young people who are studying full-time or those young people who are considered to be unemployed. The following maximum age provisions are set out in the Social Security Act 1991:

21 years for unemployed young people, OR
25 years for full-time students, OR
21 years and over, AND
- is undertaking a course of education that is to last less than 12 months, AND
- was on Newstart Allowance immediately before starting the course.

Full-time students retain qualification until the end of their course, even though this may occur after their 25th birthday. The young person must actually be undertaking the course as a full-time student and receiving Youth Allowance as they turn 25 in order to be assessed as not having attained the maximum age.

This means young unemployed people may qualify for Newstart Allowance and be treated as 'independent' from the age of 21.

(2) Under child support legislation, child support obligations end when the child turns 18 years of age. Where a child is still attending full-time secondary school during the year they turn 18, an application may be made to extend the child support assessment to the last day of that school year.

(3) The Minister for Workforce Participation and the Minister for Family and Community Services have advised that the difference relates to the purpose of the social security and child support systems. The social security system provides a safety net of income support for specific groups of people, including young people from low income families who are seeking work or studying full time. A system of means testing is used as a key eligibility criterion for payment.

In relation to income support for young people, it is the Australian Government's view that parents who have children claiming Youth Allowance should support their children, where they are able, until they reach financial independence. Financial independence is demonstrated through the young person's work efforts and earnings over a reasonable period of time after they leave school.

The Child Support Scheme is based on the principle that parents have a legal parental responsibility to support their children even after separation. A child's non-resident parent should continue to support the child until the child attains full legal capacity at the age of 18, or completes the year of secondary schooling during which the child turns 18. After that, a court, exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 may only make an order for maintenance if a young person remains financially dependent and is unable to support himself or herself because they are continuing their education or because of a disability.

(4) The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has advised that the Education Group of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (which measures price changes in expenditures on preschools and primary, secondary, and tertiary education) rose 7.7 per cent through the year to December 2004 with the corresponding ALL groups CPI rising by 2.6 per cent (not 2.4 per cent as stated in the question).

The ABS advises that this is not the most recent CPI information available. From March quarter 2004 to March quarter 2005, the Education Group for the CPI rose 6.2 per cent with the corresponding ALL groups CPI rising by 2.4 per cent.

(5) A parent's liability under the Child Support Scheme ceases when the child turns 18, or on the last day of the full-time secondary year in which the child turns 18.

A court exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 can make an order for maintenance of a young person over 18 if satisfied that the order is necessary to enable the young person to complete his or her education or because of his or her physical or mental disability. These orders are made on a discretionary basis, taking into account the parents' relative capacity to provide for the young person, and the young person's capacity to provide for his or her own support.

The Ministerial Taskforce on Child Support recently completed a detailed review of the Child Support Scheme and has presented its report, In the Best Interests of Children, to Government. The report includes some recommendations relating to young people over 18. The Government will fully consider the report's recommendations before responding.

Kelly Hoare MP Electoral Division of Charlton
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Site Director

CoA's can ignore the 18 yo cut off for child support

My experience is that a Change of Assessment (COA) can set child support liability for periods after terminating events (eg 18 yo finishing high school education).

This seemed strange to me but was confirmed by my Case Manager.

Other opinions or experience?
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