Child support for adult children in Ontario
If you are a parent who has to pay child support, you need to know if your obligations may continue after your child turns 18. In Ontario, child support for adult children may continue beyond their 18th birthday. This support for an adult child is often called “support for adult children” by lawyers. While there are statutory laws and caselaw principles for support for adult children, the obligations for child support may vary depending on each child’s circumstances.
One common reason child support may continue after a child turns 18 is if they are still in school. To fully understand your obligations as a parent for support, it’s important to understand the issue and the role of a lawyer in this matter.
For more on child support in general, check out our child support page.
The Law on Child Support for “Adult” Children:
Current child support guidelines in Ontario follow the Family Law Act and the federal Divorce Act.
The Family Law Act, under section 31(1), states that every parent has an obligation to provide support for their unmarried child who is a minor, enrolled in a full-time program of education, or is unable to withdraw from the charge of their parents due to illness, disability, or other reasons.
The Divorce Act, under section 15.1, states that a family court may make a child support order requiring a spouse to pay for the support of any or all children of the marriage.
Under the Divorce Act, a child of the marriage is defined as “a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,
a. is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or
b. is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.
While there are different definitions of a “child of the marriage,” the basic concept that courts follow is the concept of dependency. If an “adult child” is unable to become self-sufficient due to any number of factors, including disability, illness, or education, then child support obligations will likely continue past the age of 18.
Child Support for Children Enrolled in Post-Secondary Education
The Family Law Act states that if a child pursues a post-secondary degree, child support will likely continue for that child past the age of 18. Similarly, the Divorce Act recognizes that one of the most common “other causes” that might entitle an adult child to support is if the child is enrolled in post-secondary education. However, being enrolled in post-secondary school does not automatically entitle a child to support. Entitlement and quantum for support will vary depending on circumstances, including but not limited to, the child’s school and living circumstances, the parent’s financial means, and the child’s financial means.
Factors that Determine Entitlement to Support
The courts have outlined a number of factors that should be considered in determining the overall child support entitlement analysis for adult children, outlined below (the “Farden Factors”):
- Whether the child is enrolled in a course of studies;
- Whether it is a full-time or part-time course of studies.
- Whether the child has applied for or is eligible for student loans, bursaries, etc.
- The ability of the child to contribute to their own support through part time employment.
- Whether the child has a reasonable and appropriate education and career plan, as well as the potential benefit of the studies and the associated cost;
- The duration of the proposed study period;
- The prospects of the child succeeding in the program and whether the child is performing well;
- The age, qualifications and experience of the child.
- What plans the parents made for the education of their children;
- The means, needs and other circumstances of the parents and the child.
- The willingness of the child to remain reasonably accountable to the parents with respect to their postsecondary education plans and progress
The courts have held that it is not necessary to address all of the factors to prove that child support for adult children in Ontario should be paid.
Children Living Away from Home
If a child is entitled to support, based on the individual circumstances, and the child is also attending post-secondary school away from home, the amount of child support may be lowered to reflect a child living away from home. On the other hand, if the child is living at home while attending post-secondary school, child support is paid to the parent with whom the child lives and may be at a higher quantum.
Section 7 Expenses
Expenses such as tuition, books, transportation, housing, etc. may be classified as section 7 expenses and shared proportion to the parents’ incomes. However, depending on the circumstances in each case, in particular the means of the parents and the children, there have been situations where a court has ordered child support alone, without additional orders for contributions to section 7 expenses for a child of post-secondary age.
Child’s Contribute to Expenses
As a general rule, there will be an expectation that a child with means will contribute towards their post-secondary education expenses. There is no standard formula for determining the appropriate amount of the child’s contribution, and this determination will depend on the unique circumstances of every case and take into consideration the child’s income and capital assets. This duty to contribute does not necessarily require that the child devote their entire earnings to their educational expenses. However, where the means of the parents and the children are limited, the contribution expected from the child may very well increase.
Continued Support Obligations For 2nd and 3rd Degrees
Parents may have a continued obligation to pay child support while the child pursues second or even third degree. The demands and competition of the job market have forced students to stay in school longer and pursue multiple degrees. The courts have acknowledged that pursuing a career often requires a second degree (law school, medical school, dental school, etc.) As such, courts have stated that child support may continue. The court will consider a child’s entitlement based on the circumstances of each case, if a child pursues further education beyond the first degree. While child support may extend throughout a child’s post-secondary education, including multiple degrees, there needs to be a clear career path and a connection between the first and subsequently degrees. Moreover, while support may be extended the burden to prove that a child is entitled.
Child support for adult children in Ontario can be a very fact specific exercise. Child support entitlement and quantum can vary depending on various factors, such as the parent’s income, the child’s age, and many others.
A family lawyer can help explain the factors relevant to entitlement to support and help you determine which factors are most relevant and how they will impact claims for child support.