When does dependency end? Adult children in the family courts

The Metro newspaper recently reported that there are 2.4million 20-34-year-olds still living with their parents in the UK. Given the current state of the housing crisis, these figures come as no surprise. What happens then, when the parents of these adult children decide to split up? Will their housing needs be considered? Will child maintenance need to be paid by the non-resident parent? Telling the adult child to ‘Get off the sofa and get a job’ may not be enough!

Traditionally, family law courts consider a child to be a person under the age of 18. In financial remedy proceedings, the welfare of these children will be the court’s first consideration when deciding how the financial capital of their parents should be divided. This means the courts will always try to ensure that the needs, specifically accommodation needs, of any child of the family are met, and in practice, this housing provision will usually last until the completion of a child’s secondary education.

The needs of children over the age of 18 who are not in secondary education, will therefore not be the court’s first priority and any arrangements to house these over 18’s may need to be agreed between the parents themselves. Where there is sufficient wealth to cater for the needs of adult children, or where a “child” over the age of 18 has a disability which prevents them from living independently, it is certainly more than arguable that the court should take into account the needs of such children.

Maintenance beyond the age of 20 must be agreed between parents, or the resident parent may apply to the courts for periodical payments to cover the expenses of a child who is still in education or training or for a child with a disability.