Children Over the Age of Majority
Have you wondered how long you will need to support your children?
There is a common misconception that child support ends when a child turns 18 years of age. In fact, this is not the case in many circumstances.
Separated spouses and parents in Ontario have an obligation to continue to provide support for children over the age of majority (18 years of age) where the child is unable to become self-supporting “by reason of illness, disability or other cause.” The courts have generally defined “other cause” to include full-time education.
Accordingly, a child who is over the age of majority but remains enrolled full-time in a post-secondary program continues to be defined as a “child of the marriage” and, therefore, is still entitled to receive child support.
Children Attending University While Living at Home
When an adult child attends full-time education but continues to live at home with one parent, section 3(2) of the Child Support Guidelines is applicable. Section 3(2) of the Guidelines provides:
3(2) Unless otherwise provided under these Guidelines, where a child to whom a child support order relates is the age of majority or over, the amount of the child support order is
a. the amount determined by applying these Guidelines as if the child were under the age of majority; or
b. if the court considers that approach to be inappropriate, the amount that it considers appropriate, having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the child.
As such, a judge seeking to determine child support for an adult child must consider the Table amount pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. However, there is also discretion to order an amount that differs from the Guidelines having regard to the conditions, means, needs and circumstances of the child and financial ability of the spouses.
Commonly, where an “adult child” is attending full time university and living primarily with one parent, the other parent will be required to pay the full Table amount of child support as well as his or her proportionate share of the child’s post-secondary expenses, which are considered section 7 expenses.
For instance, consider the example of Alexandra. Alexandra is 20-year-old student attending Ryerson University full-time. She is in her third year of a four-year program. If Alexandra lives primarily with her mother, Alexandra’s father will likely owe Table child support as well as his proportionate share of Alexandra’s post-secondary expenses (i.e. tuition, books, etc.). Alexandra’s mother will also owe her proportionate share of Alexandra’s post-secondary expenses.
Children Living Away and Attending University
On the other hand, if Alexandra were to live in residence while attending Ryerson University and only lived with her mother during the summer months, Alexandra’s father would likely owe Table child support for the summer months only in addition to his proportionate share of Alexandra’s post-secondary expenses (which would be greater given the cost of residence).
As noted in our blog regarding section 7 expenses, depending on the financial circumstances of the family, a child over the age of majority may be expected to contribute to the costs of their post-secondary education.
Children with Disabilities
Lastly, a child may be unable to become self-supporting for other reasons, including disability. In these instances, the parent primarily caring for the child would be entitled to continue receiving child support. In determining the appropriate amount of support, the Court would consider the means of the parties and any benefits or income available to the child, including benefits derived from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
For more information on determining child support for adult children, please do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a free initial consultation: