My daughter is going to university, we have a large RESP, do I still have to pay child support?

Paying for university or college tuition

It sounds like you have a good case to change the way support is paid.  Child support is much more flexible after age 18. Available funds, such an Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), should be used to mer your daughter’s needs first.  Parents only contribute over and above this savings and what the child can afford, in an amount that is affordable for the parents.

When it comes to university and college expenses, parents contribute to those expenses, above what the child could reasonably contribute, in portion to their incomes with some consideration as to what is affordable.  For more on these types of expenses, you may want to listen to this podcast.  RESPs can significantly affect what each parent must pay while a child is in post-secondary education. 

Generally speaking, parents can use an RESP to cover their portion of a child's post-secondary education expenses.  This means that if one parent put all the money into the RESP, what comes out of the RESP will be considered that parent's contribution to the post-secondary education expenses.  There is some benefit to doing that after separation as the parent who uses the RESP will also get to use the government credits and the investment's growth as part of his or her contribution, while the other parent has to pay using all of their own money.  Where both parties contributed, but in different amounts, the money used out of the RESP is often allocated to each parent's contribution in proportion to what each parent contributed.  Where both parents contributed equally, then the RESP is considered an equal contribution from each parent. 

The child also has an obligation to contribute to his or her own educational expenses by applying for scholarships and bursaries that are available and by working if there is not enough money to cover school expenses, although that does not sound like it applies in your case. 

Paying child support and university or college tuition with an Registered Education Savings Plan

Also, you should note that when you are contributing to a child's post secondary education expenses (either through your RESP contributions or directly), there may be a change to the base child support where the child is going away to school.  Part of the expenses that the parents will be sharing are for things like residence, meal plans and other living expenses that would usually be covered by base support.  So, it is common for base or table child support to be reduced so that one parent does not pay for the same expenses twice. 

It may also be the case that spousal support would be changed as well.  See this page to learn about that

If you want some information about how to change a support order, watch this video.  

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law

You can also learn a lot more about these child support issues, and other family law matters, by reading this $20 easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law.  

Since these child support for children in college or university cases depend a lot on the particular facts, you should probably speak to a good family law / divorce lawyer to find out how the law applies to your specific situation and determine your best options.  You can contact Certified Specialist in Family Law,  Toronto Divorce Lawyer, John Schuman, by either calling the number at the top of this page or using the form below.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on KindleiBookstore_140x70

If you have found this page helpful, please share it on your social network using the buttons at the bottom of the page.  Then all of your friends can learn about how RESPs affect child support as well and either make the right plans for their children, or make sure they are paying the right amount of child support now. 


John, thank you so much for an informative response. And thank you for sharing. Also, your book sounds incredibly effective for those who are or will be going through divorce or separation. Although your book is intended for those in Ontario I think it may provide good points to think about out here in Alberta. Cheers

- Marie T. DeLauretis (Certified Financial Planner & Financial Divorce Specialist - DeLauretis Wealth Management Inc.)

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