2.5.5 Application to Have an Assessment Continue Past a Child's 18th Birthday

Context

A carer entitled to child support for a child who is turning 18 can apply to extend a child support assessment (including one based on an agreement) provided the child will be in full-time secondary education on their 18th birthday. The child support assessment can be extended until the last day of the secondary school year that falls within 365 days (i.e. a year) of the child's 18th birthday. Where the period of 365 days of the child's 18th birthday includes the end of 2 school years (e.g. the child's 18th birthday is 5 days before the end of Year 11 and 350 days before the end of Year 12), the assessment or agreement can be extended to the last day of the earlier school year (Year 11) as this is the relevant school year in which the child turned 18.

Note: FTB payments may be affected if a carer does not apply for an extension of child support for a child who is turning 18 years and is in full-time secondary education. Further information regarding entitlement to FTB is available from Centrelink (also see FA Guide 3.1.5.40).

A parent who has a relevant dependent child who is turning 18 can apply to have the relevant dependent child taken into account in any relevant administrative assessment provided the relevant dependent child will be in full-time secondary education on their 18th birthday. The relevant dependent child can be taken into account in any relevant administrative assessment until the last day of the relevant secondary school year consistent with that described for child support children turning 18.

A secondary school includes a school, TAFE college or any other educational institution which provides full-time secondary education. A secondary school also includes a school that caters for the needs of children with learning difficulties and provides a form of education that is not tertiary education.

Act references

CSA Act section 5, section 12, section 34B, section 84, section 93, section 151B, section 151C, section 151D and section 151E

FL Act section 66E

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Application to extend a child support assessment

A carer entitled to child support can apply to extend a child support assessment, including an assessment modified by an agreement, until the last day of the relevant school year in which the child turns 18 provided this day falls within 365 days (i.e. a year) of the child's 18th birthday and the child will be in full-time secondary education on their 18th birthday (CSA Act section 151B). Where the period of 365 days of the child's 18th birthday includes the end of 2 school years (e.g. the child's 18th birthday is 5 days before the end of Year 11 and 350 days before the end of Year 12), the assessment or agreement can be extended to the last day of the earlier school year (Year 11) as this is the relevant school year in which the child turned 18.

If, on the day before the child's 18th birthday, the child support assessment is or will be based on a child support agreement that initiated the assessment under section 93 (because child support was not already payable), and the agreement:

  • does not specify an end date (i.e. that is more specific than the usual terminating events), both parties must sign the application for extension in order for the application to be accepted and to continue the child support agreement beyond the child's 18th birthday (CSA Act section 151B(2)(b)). If both signatures are not received, the assessment cannot be extended beyond the child's 18th birthday, and child support will cease to be payable when the child turns 18 or an earlier terminating event occurs (CSA Act section 93(1)(h)).
  • does specify an end date (CSA Act section 84(1)(g)), the agreement will end on that end date (or an earlier terminating event) and cannot be extended using a section 151B application. A section 151B application cannot override the specified end date in the agreement. To avoid such an agreement ending before or on a child's 18th birthday, the parties would need to make a new child support agreement before the child turns 18, or where an agreement has ended before the child's 18th birthday, either parent or a non-parent carer may apply for an assessment prior to the child's 18th birthday.

Where an agreement specifies an end date that is after the child's 18th birthday, a section 151B application signed by both parties could extend the agreement beyond the child's 18th birthday, but only until the earlier of the agreement end date or the last day of the secondary school year. Without a duly signed application for extension, the agreement would end on the child's 18th birthday (a terminating event).

If the assessment for the child is based on an agreement which resulted in an assessment under section 34B (because child support was already payable), then the carer who is entitled to child support may apply for an extension. The application does not need to be signed by the other party for it to be accepted. If the agreement does not specify an end date (i.e. that is more specific than the usual terminating events), the agreement will continue to modify the assessment after the child turns 18. If the agreement specifies an end date (CSA Act section 84(1)(g)), and the assessment has been extended under section 151B, the agreement will cease to modify the assessment after the end date, and the assessment will instead be based on the formula.

A parent of a relevant dependent child can apply to have the relevant dependent child taken into account in the calculation of any relevant child support assessment until the last day of the relevant school year in which the relevant dependent child turns 18 if this day is within 365 days of the relevant dependent child's 18th birthday (CSA Act section 151B(1A)).

Example: A child support agreement that modifies an existing administrative assessment is to continue until 30 June 2009. The child, A, turns 18 on 11 July 2009. An application for continuation of the agreement cannot be accepted because the agreement will not be in force on the day before A turns 18. However, there will be a formula assessment in place after the agreement ends and an application for continuation of that assessment can be made before the child turns 18.

Example: An application to continue an assessment for child B is accepted. B's parents then enter into a child support agreement before B turns 18. There is no end date in the agreement. Only the carer entitled to child support needs to apply for the extension and the agreement continues after B turns 18 because the parents were making an agreement to alter an assessment that continues until the end of the school year.

Example: A parent who is receiving child support wishes to apply for a child support agreement in relation to D to continue after D turns 18. The agreement modifies a pre-existing administrative assessment. The other parent refuses to sign the application and it is not clear from the agreement whether the parents intended that it will continue beyond D's 18th birthday. The parent entitled to child support can apply to extend the assessment without the other parent's consent. The Registrar can continue the agreement beyond the child's 18th birthday because the agreement did not end when the child turned 18 so it will continue to affect the assessment beyond the child's 18th birthday.

Example: The Registrar accepts an application to continue a child support agreement that initiated the assessment under section 93 for child support for C. However, C's parents then enter into a new agreement before C turns 18, terminating the previous agreement when C turns 18. Therefore, the assessment will not continue after C turns 18, unless both parents sign a new application to extend the agreement beyond the child's 18th birthday.

Example: A child support agreement that initiated the assessment under section 93 states that child support will be payable at a given rate until E's 18th birthday or until E finishes Year 12, whichever is the later. An application from the parent receiving child support to extend the assessment cannot be accepted without the other parent's signature, despite what the agreement says. In this case, a terminating event - the child's 18th birthday will occur before the agreement end date. So it would be necessary for both parents to sign an application to extend the agreement beyond the child's 18th birthday. If the requirement for joint signatures in paragraph 151B(2)(b) is not met, the Registrar cannot accept the application to extend the agreement beyond the child's 18th birthday.

Example: An application to continue the recognition of a relevant dependent child, F, after F's 18th birthday is granted. Any assessment where the parent is assessed in respect of other children continues to recognise that F is a relevant dependent child of the parent.

An application (made orally or in writing) should include:

  • the name of the child,
  • the name of the school or college,
  • whether the child will be in full-time secondary education on their 18th birthday,
  • the last day of secondary school for that year, and
  • if the application relates to a child support agreement that initiated the assessment under section 93, the application must be in writing and signed by both parents.

The application can be made after the child turns 17 (CSA Act section 151C(2)(a)) and before the child's 18th birthday (or after the child's 18th birthday if, in the Registrar's opinion, there are exceptional circumstances justifying the making of the application after the child's 18th birthday) (CSA Act section 151C(2)(e)(ii)).

How the Registrar will make a decision

The Registrar must accept the application (CSA Act section 151C) if:

  • the child has turned 17,
  • an assessment or agreement is in force, or is likely to be in force, on the day before the child turns 18 or an administrative assessment that takes the child into account is in force, or is likely to be in force, on the day before the child's 18th birthday,
  • the child is likely to be in full-time secondary education on their 18th birthday,
  • the last day of the secondary school year will be within 365 days after the child's 18th birthday, and
  • the application was made before the child's 18th birthday (or there are, in the Registrar's opinion, exceptional circumstances justifying the making of an application after the child's 18th birthday).

Full-time secondary education

'Full-time secondary education' means education that is determined by the secondary school at which the child is receiving the education to be full-time secondary education (CSA Act section 5).

'Secondary school' means a school, TAFE college, or any other educational institution, which provides full-time secondary education (CSA Act section 5). A secondary school also includes a school that caters for the needs of children with learning difficulties and provides a form of education that is not tertiary education.

Note: A child will be considered to be in 'full-time secondary education' during any period that is prescribed by the school to be a term, semester or school holiday break, and where it is intended that the child will continue their secondary education after the end of the holiday.

Example: A has an intellectual disability and attends a school that specifically caters for children with special learning needs. While the curriculum for A's school is different from the curriculum for a child attending a non-special needs secondary school, A's school is still regarded as providing a secondary education.

A child may receive a full-time secondary education through distance or online learning provided by a secondary school. Also, a child being home schooled may, in certain circumstances and subject to the relevant state legislation, be receiving a secondary education.

Last day of secondary school for the year

The last day of the secondary school year is either:

  • if the child is not required to sit an examination, the last day of classes for the school year (as determined by the school), or
  • if the child is required to sit an examination, the later of:
    • the last day of the period of examinations for the child's year level, and
    • the last day of classes for the school year (as determined by the school (CSA Act section 5)).

Example: A turns 18 in the January school holidays before commencing Year 12. A attends Smithfield School in Year 12 and is required to sit exams at the end of Year 12. The last day of classes for Year 12 at Smithfield School is 15 November and the last day of the exam period for Year 12 at Smithfield School is 10 December. The assessment should continue until 10 December.

Example: B attends Campbell School in Year 11. The last day of school for Year 11 is 10 December 2012. B turns 18 in November 2012. Although B will return to school in 2013 to complete Year 12, the assessment can only continue up to the last day of school in Year 11 (i.e. 10 December 2012) as this is the relevant school year in which B turned 18. The assessment cannot continue to the last day of Year 12 in 2013 because B turned 18 during the Year 11 school year not the Year 12 school year.

Generally, the Australian secondary school year falls within a calendar year. The Registrar can continue a child support assessment for a child up to the last day of the school year where this day is within 365 days of the child's 18th birthday.

Some secondary schools, particularly those in the northern hemisphere, have a school year that spans 2 calendar years (e.g. August to May). The Registrar can continue a child support assessment for a child attending these schools up to the last day of the secondary school year where this day is within 365 days of the child's 18th birthday.

Example: A attends Jameson School in Year 12. The school year for Jameson school begins in August and ends in May. A begins his final year of secondary school in August 2011, and turns 18 on 1 September 2011. The assessment should continue until the last day of Year 12 where that day is within 365 days of A's 18th birthday, i.e. May 2012.

Example: B lives in the UK where the school year ends in June. B turned 18 in March 2011, while in her second-last year of secondary education. B will continue her secondary education after the end of the 2010-11 school year and will finish her secondary education in June 2012.

As B turned 18 during the 2010-11 school year, the assessment can only be extended until June 2011 - the last day of the relevant school year.

In some secondary schools, the school year may fall within a calendar year; however, the relevant year level for some students may span 2 calendar years. In cases where the child is required to sit an examination, the last day of the secondary school year (CSA Act section 5) will be the later of the last day of classes for the school year or the last day of exams for the child's year level.

Example: At A's school, Year 12 commences in October 2012. A turns 18 in November 2012. A continues his Year 12 studies in 2013 and the last day of classes for Year 12 is August 2013. A is required to sit his Year 12 examinations in September 2013. The assessment can be extended until September 2013 as this is the later of the last day of classes and last day of exams and this date is within 365 days of A's 18th birthday.

Repeating a school year

If a child repeats a year of secondary education, the Registrar can continue a child support assessment for the child up to the last day of the repeated secondary school year where that day is within 365 days of the child's 18th birthday.

Example: A completes Year 12 in 2011. In order to improve their academic results, A again enrols in Year 12 in 2012. The school year commences in February 2012 and ends in November 2012. A turns 18 in March 2012. The assessment can continue until the end of the school year where that day is within 365 days of A's 18th birthday, i.e. November 2012.

Example: B completes Year 12 in the 2012 Australian school year which runs from February 2012 to December 2012. In 2013, B travels to Korea as an exchange student and attends Year 12 during the Korean school year which runs from April 2013 to March 2014. As B turns 18 in June 2013, the child support assessment can continue until the end of the Korean school year in March 2014.

Carer entitled to child support

An application to extend a child support assessment beyond a child's 18th birthday can be made by a carer entitled to child support (CSA Act section 151B(1)). This will generally be the payee in the child support case who has the child in their care.

Note: FTB payments may be affected if a carer does not apply for an extension of child support for a child who is turning 18 years and is in full-time secondary education. Further information regarding entitlement to FTB is available from Centrelink.

Sometimes a child is in the care of one parent but that parent is the overall payer in the child support case. That parent is able to make an application to extend the assessment as they would otherwise be regarded as the carer entitled to child support under the administrative assessment for that child, prior to the offset of any child support payable for other children in the case.

Consideration of late applications

The Registrar can accept an application made after the child's 18th birthday if, in the Registrar's opinion, there are exceptional circumstances justifying the making of the application after the child's 18th birthday (CSA Act section 151C(2)(e)(ii)). The following are examples of circumstances that the Registrar may consider 'exceptional' in deciding whether to accept a late application. This is not an exhaustive list and each case must be considered on its own merits.

  • Serious health problems delayed lodgement (written confirmation from a health practitioner will be required),
  • An application for an assessment has been made but not accepted before the child turns 18, and it was unclear whether the child would be in secondary full-time education,
  • The carer was under pressure not to apply (evidence from a person fully aware of the nature and details of the circumstances, e.g. a social worker or police officer, will be required),
  • Severe distress or hardship (e.g. caused by a disaster such as fire or flood) delayed lodgement, or
  • Communication difficulties led to an inability to access information (a result of geographical location, cultural issues, literacy, language difficulties, etc).

The exceptional circumstances must relate to the reasons that justify the making of the application after the child's 18th birthday and not to the consequences to the individual of making a late application.

Example: M did not make an application to extend the child support assessment prior to child A's 18th birthday. After the child support assessment has ended, M realises that their FTB has been affected and requests that the Registrar consider a late application. The Registrar would refuse the application if there were no exceptional circumstances that justified the application being made after A turned 18.

The consequences of the decision

If the Registrar refuses an application to extend a child support assessment, the parent or non-parent carer who made the application must be advised in writing (CSA Act section 151C)). The parents or non-parent carer (if any) can object to the particulars of the assessment.

If the Registrar accepts the application:

  • both the parent or non-parent carer who made the application and the parent liable to pay child support must be advised in writing (CSA Act section 151C(4)), and
  • both parties must be advised that, if aggrieved by the decision, they may object to the particulars of the assessment (CSA Act section 151C(5)).

If the application is for a child of the assessment and the Registrar has accepted the application, the child turning 18 does not constitute a terminating event (CSA Act section 151D(1)). Instead:

  • A terminating event will happen on:
    • the last day of the secondary school year, or
    • if the child does not complete the school year, the day the Registrar is satisfied the child ceases to be in full-time secondary education.
  • The child is taken to be aged 17 for the purposes of applying Part 5 of the CSA Act until a terminating event happens (CSA Act section 151D(2A)).

If the application is for a relevant dependent child:

  • The Registrar must amend the assessment to take into account the relevant dependent child until the last day of the school year (CSA Act section 151E(1)), and
  • The child is taken to be aged 17 for the purposes of applying Part 5 of the CSA Act (CSA Act section 151E(2)) for the period:
    • Beginning on the child's 18th birthday, and
    • Ending on the last day of the secondary school year.

Where an administrative assessment continues after a child turns 18, the provisions of the CSA Act apply to allow the parents to lodge estimates of income (2.5.1), notify of changes in care arrangements (2.2.2), apply for a change of assessment under Part 6A (2.6), etc., in the same way as before the child turned 18.

Other options if assessment is not extended

Change of Assessment

If an administrative assessment for a child is not extended past the child's 18th birthday, either parent may make an application to change the assessment where, in the special circumstances of the case, their capacity to support the other child/children of the assessment is significantly reduced by their duty to maintain the adult child over 18 years of age (see 2.6.15).

Adult child maintenance orders

A court with family law jurisdiction is able to deal with applications for child maintenance from parents or carers not eligible for a child support assessment. This includes an order for further maintenance of a child over the age of 18 if this is necessary to enable the child to complete their education or because the child has a physical or mental disability. If a court has ordered the payer to pay child support for a child over 18 it will not be necessary to apply for the assessment for that child to continue (see 3.1.3 for more information about child maintenance orders including whether the orders can be registered with the Registrar for collection).

Last reviewed: 16 May 2016