Child Support Does Not End At Age 18

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Unlike several jurisdictions of the United States, child support in Canada does not automatically end for a child when he or she turns 18 years old.  In Canada, child support continues for children after their 18th birthday in one of two circumstances:

  1. If the child is disabled, such that he or she remains dependent and cannot obtain employment that is adequate to meet his or her needs; or,
  2. When a child is enrolled full-time in a program of education.  In theory, that program of education must be career-oriented and not just an excuse for the child to remain dependant.  There is a debate over whether avictory lap in high school, where a child who spends an extra year in high school, qualifies the child to continue receiving child support.  Some factors to be considered are if the child is spending that extra year to hang out with friends, or to avoid entering the workforce or postsecondary education, rather than continuing their studies to meet the educational requirements of a particular program.  Some judges suggest that a child is only entitled to child support for a “victory lap” if the extra year is related to career or education advancement.

An important difference in child support for children over 18 years of age is that the child support tables no longer presumptively apply (although most judges use the tables as a starting point) and other arrangements can be made for their support to suit their particular circumstances.

For children over 18 years old, who are enrolled in a full-time program of education, their educational expenses may be special or extraordinaryexpenses.  This means that the child’s parents must contribute to postsecondary education, tuition, books, residence, and other related expenses in proportion to their incomes. 

This does not mean that children of separated parents are automatically entitled to have their entire postsecondary education paid for by their parents while their peers that have intact families have to pay for school.  Judges are supposed to consider

  1. what arrangements would have been made for the children’s education if the family was still intact
  2. what contribution the child should make to his or her own education.  The longer a child spends in school, the more that the courts expect the child to contribute to the cost of that education.   The courts expect children to apply for grants and scholarships and to incur a reasonable amount of student debt in light of their parents’ financial situation.  The courts also expect children to work, unless their parents are exceptionally wealthy and can afford to send the child on other “enrichment programs”, such as trips to Europe for the summer.  University and college students should get summer jobs, assuming that is possible, and use some of their earnings toward school.  The longer children are in post-secondary education, generally, the more judges expect them to contribute to their education.

However, where it is not clear how these factors should impact on the amount of child support, judges err on providing support to the child.

May paying for child's expenses

It is common for the child support payer to pay full table amount of support while the child is at home from school and a reduced amount while away at school.  The logic behind this is that a portion of the base child support is to pay for food and accommodation, but the parents are already sharing the cost of food and accommodation as special or extraordinary expenses.  However, the recipient parent is also maintaining a home for the child to come back to, so some amount of support is appropriate to cover that expense.

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11 - Child Support's Special and Extraordinary Expenses

54 - Child Support Does Not End at 18

Since the tables no longer presumptively apply, parents of adult dependent children are free to agree to other arrangements than the above to share the child’s expenses.  Sometimes one parent pays all of the post-secondary costs and stops paying base child support.  Sometimes the parents each agree to be responsible for specific expenses. 

32 - How to Change a Support Order

Another situation that sometimes comes up is when a child takes a year, or more off school and then returns to school full-time.  In that situation, the child may once again become a dependent, and that may entitle him or her to child support.  However, the longer a child has been in the workforce, the more a judge will expect that child to have the money to put towards education before looking to parents.  Also, child support is likely not appropriate if a child’s employer is sending him or her to school.  For example, it is harder to hit up parents for child support when an employer gives a child leave to do an MBA with a promise of a better position and higher salary on return.  Without separated parents, that child would have taken out a loan because that would be the smart financial decision. After a child turns 18, child support may not end, but the parents have more freedom over how they will share the child’s expenses.  

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Best Seller

Since so much about the particulars of the circumstances can affect child support for a child over 18, and since there are many options for how child support can be paid, the best thing to do to figure out child support for your situation is to set up a consultation with a good child support lawyer.  Contact Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, by calling 416-446-5869, emailing him, or using the form below.  We respond promptly to all inquiries. 

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Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on Kindle

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 to find lots more articles on child support.

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Thank you.  

I have a child turning 19 who is special needs and know that the absent father will think he will not be required to continue.  My daughter functions at the age of about a three year old, so needless to say, life will never be independent for her.

Again, thank you for posting.


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