Maintenance at the age of majority: what children can expect from parents

From the age of 18, a young woman or a young man can claim cash support from their parents.

Parents also have to pay maintenance for children of legal age. Out of duty they are only when the son or daughter has completed the training.

Finally 18, finally of age. But 18-year-olds are not always financially on their own two feet. They don’t have to either, because they usually have a father and mother. "Parents are also subject to maintenance for children of legal age", says Eva Becker, specialist lawyer for family law from Berlin. This is not a matter of discretion, but anchored in the law. So it says in the Civil Code that in addition to the cost of education, a child’s life needs include adequate education or study.

From the age of 18, a young woman or a young man can claim cash support from their parents. The mother and father are then obliged to pay part of their income. The level of support for a child is specified in the Düsseldorf table – provided the child still lives with one parent. "Does the adult child have their own household, then his monthly maintenance claim is 735 euros", explains Petra Windeck. She is the chairwoman of the board and head of the educational forum of the German Family Association in Cologne.

Income is fully taken into account

"The entitlement to maintenance only ends when the child has completed a course of study or training and generates his own income", emphasizes Friederike Knörzer. The specialist lawyer for family law is a legal advisor at the German Institute for Youth Welfare and Family Law in Heidelberg. Basically, children of legal age must have their own income fully taken into account when calculating their maintenance.

In addition to the monthly training allowance, income from capital assets or from renting and leasing are also taken into account. On the other hand, the earnings of schoolchildren and students who work in the evenings, on weekends or during the holidays are generally irrelevant – provided that it is not a matter of permanent additional earnings. In general, a child only has the right to be financed an education or study – and not a second education. "An exception applies to children with disabilities", says Becker. They are still entitled to maintenance if they cannot finance their own lives.

In everyday life it sometimes happens that a child made a mistake in choosing a career and therefore changes education. "In such a case, the maintenance claim against the parents remains", emphasizes Windeck. The same applies as a rule if the child drops out of study because it does not correspond to his inclinations and therefore completes an education. If a degree follows after completing high school and training, parents are usually also required to pay for their university time. This presupposes that training and studies are related and that the study is started immediately after the end of the training.

On the other hand, if the adult child does an apprenticeship after school, then a high school diploma and then wants to study, there is no maintenance claim against the parents. In this order, the vocational training is completed with the passed apprenticeship. If, however, the course was aimed at at the start of the apprenticeship, training upkeep must be paid, the Federal Court of Justice decided (BGH, ref .: XII ZR 54/04).

If the child remains permanently inactive

There are also cases in which the child drops out of education, registers as unemployed and does nothing more. "It depends on the individual case whether parents are then still subject to maintenance", says Knörzer. The child is only entitled to maintenance support if he or she starts the training systematically and purposefully and ends it in a reasonable time. If the child remains permanently inactive, parents are not obliged to support them.

The child goes after this Abitur for one year while traveling or if it works as an au pair abroad, parents are also legally not subject to maintenance – because the child is not in training. However, the child usually does not lose his right to maintenance with the travel time or the stay abroad.

If the child starts an apprenticeship or study after returning, he is entitled to maintenance from the parents. In a voluntary social or ecological year, a child can definitely claim maintenance if this year is a prerequisite for the desired education or study.

Is there also a maintenance obligation during the voluntary social or ecological year, if this is not a prerequisite for a later job? The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court denies this (ref .: 2 WF 174/11), the Hamm Higher Regional Court sees it differently (ref .: I WF 296/14). "A decision by the highest judge has yet to be made", explains Knörzer.

In general, if the father and mother are not financially able to pay their child full support, the child can apply for Bafög. "The Bafög benefits are fully deducted from the maintenance requirements", says Becker. Parents only have to pay for a more or less small remaining amount.


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Christina Cherry
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