What Happens to Child Support When a Child Graduates High School in January and Starts Univeristy in September?


by Ira Marcovitch, Articling Student

Child Support in Ontario is governed by a combination of the Family Law Act, the Divorce Act and the Child Support Guidelines, all of which create an obligation on a parent to support a child, be it a ‘child’ under the Family Law Act or a ‘child of the marriage’ under the Divorce Act.   For married or divorced parents, the Divorce Act and the Federal Child Support Guidelines apply all across Canada.  This page applies to parents in Ontario and married parents in Canada.

Unlike many jurisdictions in the United States and abroad, the entitlement to child support does not end when a child reaches 18 years of age. See the article Child Support Does Not End at Age 18 for a full explanation of how judges deal with child support for children over the age of 18. You can also listen to this podcast covering child support in university and other large children's expenses.   As well, inthe video Do I Have to Pay Child Support, sets out the general rules regarding the payment of child support.


10 - Child Support - Who Pays and How Much?

In Canada, child support can continue past the age of 18 in two circumstances: where the child is disabled such that they remain dependant on their parents (this only applies to children of married parents); or where the child is enrolled in a full-time program of education. Where a child is enrolled in a post-secondary program, their educational or tuition expenses may qualify as special and extraordinary (or “section seven") expenses. This means that a payor parent will have to contribute to post-secondary expenses such as tuition, residence costs, textbook costs and other expenses in proportion to their income. 


Despite the gap in a child’s education, if she has been accepted by the university, she remains ‘enrolled in a full-time program of education.’ As set out in the page, Child Support Does Not End at Age 18, some judges disagree as to whether children over 18 years of age in a ‘victory lap’ year of high school continue to be entitled to support. However, it appears that if the extra semester or year is necessary to enter into a paricular post-secondary program that the child wants or to gain credits, it is likely that the extra semester and necessary gap will not disentitle a child to child support. But that does not mean that a child who takes a “break” instead of a “victory lap” is not longer entitled to child support. As far as the tuition related expenses, payor parents will continue to be under the obligation to pay for university costs despite the relatively short gap.

If the child is over 18 years old, and has stopped attending school full-time, then child support can stop during the “gap” but would resume after the child returns to school full-time.   The expectation is that the child would find temporary employment to contribute to her living expenses during that time.  Although, in those circumstances, many children chose to stay in school and not work during the gap.  There is no break in child support when a child is out-of-school for the summer but intending to return to school full-time in the fall.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law - 4th edition cover

Child support does not end for children under 18 unless they have withdrawn from parental control, which essentially moved out on their own and become self-sufficient.  That is not the case for a child waiting to go to university.

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Cases of child support for children after high school are more complicated and the particular circumstances of the parents and the child play a large role in determining whether and how much child support should be paid. These are cases where getting a consultation with an excellent and knowledgeable  family lawyer, is really important to determine how the law applies in your case. To get in touch with Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, who is an expert in child support issues, call 416-446-4036, email him, or use the form below. We answer all inquiries promptly.

To learn even more about child support, for kids over and under 18, and for kids with special expenses, you may want to get a copy of this easy-to-understand book on the basics of Ontario Family Law as a paperback, or as a $9.99 eBook for Kindle or Kobo or as an iBook for iPad, iPhone or Mac.  You may also want to listen to this podcast or watch this video. You can also use the search on the right  (below on mobile devices) to find lots more articles on child support.

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