Barrie M. Hayes, Partner

There is a legal anomaly to the extent that there is, while a family unit is intact, no obligation at law for parents to support their adult children. Following separation, however, a legal obligation is triggered imposing support for adult children under provincial and federal legislation.

Most support legislation does not contain an absolute age limit where child support automatically terminates.

Under the Family Law Act an adult child is only entitled to support if he or she is in full time attendance at school. However, under the Divorce Act a child continues to be eligible for support if he or she is unable to withdraw from parental charge for a number of reasons, including health, education or the inability to provide necessaries for him or herself.

As a general rule, a child who is in full time attendance at high school or at a post secondary institution is a dependent and is entitled to receive support.

Courts generally take a liberal view of what constitutes pursuing post secondary education, however the courts expect adult children to pursue their education conscientiously and usually require an explanation if a child is not carrying a full course load or is struggling with his or her studies.

Historically, the courts were hesitate to extend support beyond a first degree or diploma, but with a recognition that a bachelor’s degree no longer assures self sufficiency the courts are increasingly approving a continuation of support for post graduate or an employment focused diploma after completion of a Bachelor of Arts.

The factors usually considered in assessing whether a second degree or diploma was eligible for a continuation of child support is:

  1. The reasonableness of the further degree or diploma in regards to the child obtaining employment after graduation;
  2. The family finances available to support the continued post secondary program;
  3. The child’s financial contribution and conscientiousness in pursuing the second post secondary program.