As Kanye West famously sang in his 2005 hit, “Golddigger”:
“Eighteen years, eighteen years She got one of yo[ur] kids got you for 18 years.”
If you think that your obligation for child support automatically ceases upon a child’s eighteenth birthday…. then you should stop taking legal advice from Mr. West.
The courts view child support on a case by case basis. The key factor in every situation is always to keep the best interests of the child in mind. With the current trend of children remaining dependent on their parents well into their 20’s, the question remains… can child support obligations last passed the age of majority?
The reality is, Canada to an extent, puts a legal obligation on divorced couples to support their children into adulthood. This is not to imply that a child who lives on their own, is self-sufficient, and has a full-time job can ask for support simply because the parents have separated. What this does mean, however, is that the Courts will look at requests for child support for adult children who remain dependent on their parents for a variety of reasons.
The social context surrounding the subject does having supporting rationale, and overall it does make sense based on emerging trends. Adult children have a multitude of reasons and circumstances that have elongated their ‘dependent status’, such as: attending post-secondary education has become almost imperative in order to stay competitive, finding secure employment, as well as affordable housing, have also become increasingly difficult, and people are choosing to marry or enter common-law relationships later in life.
The Divorce Act, and in Ontario, the Family Law Act, both provide authority for a court to order child support for a “child” over the age of 18. The Divorce Act provides a broad definition for adult children eligible for support, while the FLA takes on a more defined approach. The Divorce Act, only allows for spouses and former spouses to apply for support. Although rare and far between, there have been some cases involving young adults bringing claims against their divorced parents for support.
There are some reasons why adult support would be necessary that most can relate to, or even agree with. For instance: if an adult child lives with a disability or severe illness we tend to accept or even assume that they will receive some form of support from their parents, concurrently children who pursue post-secondary education often need financial assistance from their parents.
What if you owed child support because an adult child was unemployed? Now, this would seem to be a bit less acceptable to some. However, if an adult child is unemployed, and is still dependent on a parent, then the other parent may still owe child support. The potentially frustrating aspect of this legal obligation is that this is only expected from divorced couples. There is no legal obligation for a married couple to support their adult children financially. Concomitantly, the courts appear to have made a legal obligation on divorced parents to provide financial support for their children’s post-secondary education, an onus that does not exist on parents in an intact family. Have you ever heard of parents in an intact family being court-ordered to make some contribution to their child’s post-secondary education? Precisely. The courts do however make this an obligatory responsibility for divorced parents. This hasn’t gone unnoticed, as divorced spouses have brought forth Charter challenges under section 15, the right to equality, for this very reason. Though none of these challenges have been very successful.
It is important to keep in mind that child support awards are very fact-specific. The same rules do not apply to intact families versus divorced ones. There is no guarantee that you will be able to close down the “Bank of Mom and/or Dad” when your child turns 18.
The above information is not legal advice of any kind, and you should be sure to speak to a qualified family law lawyer about your specific situation. For more information, call us at 905-273-4588 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experienced family law lawyers.