NOTE: This article was published in July 2012 and reflects the law as it stands on the date of publication and not at any later date.
There has been some uncertainty as to the requirements for a successful claim by an adult child. The classic position was that such claims were not likely to succeed in the absence of a moral obligation or “special circumstances”.
It was not enough to establish: (a) the mere fact of blood relationship and (b) necessitous circumstances (Re Coventry  Ch 461). If those were the only two elements established, it was thought that the claim would fail. This was because no obligation is generally owed by a parent to an adult child (unless the child is disabled and/or there has been a continuing assumption of responsibility by the parent to the child and/or promises made by the parent which have been relied upon by the child). In layman’s terms, an adult child is expected to maintain himself.
However, there has been something of a retreat from the absolute position that an applicant must do more than establish necessity and relationship.
Firstly, it has been said that there is no special bar to claims by adult children. As Browne-Wilkinson J said in Re Dennis  2 All ER 140, at 145B:
The court now approaches claims made by a son on the same basis as claims made by any other applicant, though in the past it might be said that the court viewed such claims with some disfavour.
Secondly, the right approach is for the Court to apply the factors in s. 3 of the 1975 Act, rather than to ask whether the Claimant has only established necessity and relationship, or whether there are “special circumstances” or a “moral obligation” (terms which do not appear in s. 3). The Court should not put a “gloss” on the words in the 1975 Act.
Thirdly, the objection to claims by adult children, however needy, may only apply where the child has earning capacity. In Re Hancock  2 FLR 346 Butler-Sloss L.J. said (at 351F-G):Read More »