Under a new law being proposed, parents may be given the right not to maintain a child who has reached 16 years old, and who has ‘voluntarily withdrawn from parental control’ for reasons other than physical violence or abuse.
The proposal has been made in the Child Maintenance and Access Bill, which is now before the House of Assembly. It will become the territory’s first piece of legislation that comprehensively addresses the issue of child maintenance.
Under the proposed law, a child is defined as a person who ‘is under the age of 18 years’ and ‘has never married’.
Except for the aforementioned instance in which a child 16 years or older voluntarily leaves parental control, ‘every parent shall – to the extent the parent is capable of doing so – provide reasonable maintenance for his or her child whether or not the parent has actual custody of the child’.
The proposed law, however, listed exceptions under which parents would still be required to maintain an offspring who is no longer a child.
In relation to physical or mental disability, the proposal is for parents to maintain an offspring for a lifetime if it is proven that the offspring is unable to adequately provide for himself/herself. Otherwise, if the offspring is able to provide for himself/herself, the parent would be required to maintain the offspring until he/she reaches 23 years old if it is necessary to enable the offspring to complete his or her education.
Based on the proposed law, parents will also be required to maintain an offspring who is unable to maintain himself or herself due to an illness and will require specialized care beyond 18 years old.
Mechanisms are also suggested for a child to be assessed in all of the aforementioned instances.