Child Support

Do I have to Finance My Adult Child’s University Career?

Every parent has a duty to support their dependent children and, in some cases, a duty to support their adult children, particularly when the child is pursuing post secondary education. Child support is seen as a right of the child and therefore there are limited scenarios in which a payor parent can stop child support payments. You may be able to terminate child support for adult children. One of the grounds for stopping child support payments is when your child reaches the age of majority, which in British Columbia is 19 years of age. However, despite reaching the age of majority, you may still have to pay child support for an adult child, for example if her or she:

  • continues to attend school or university pursuing post secondary education,
  • has a medical condition or disability, and/or
  • is unable to find work or become self-supporting.

Child Support Payments For Adult Children

You may have to pay child support for adult children who are attending university or pursuing post secondary education. If your adult child is attending university, in determining whether child support is payable, the court will consider whether the child’s educational aspirations are reasonable and whether it’s appropriate that the higher education be financed by the parents. In Farden v. Farden, (1993), 1993 CanLII 2570 (BC SC), 48 R.F.L. (3d) 60 at 64-5, Master Joyce (as he then was) set out a list of eight factors that may assist a court in making a determination making these considerations:

  1. whether the child is in fact = enrolled in a course of studies = and whether it is a full-time or part-time course of studies;
  2. whether or not the child has applied for or is eligible for student loans or other financial assistance;
  3. the career plans of the child, i.e. whether the child has some reasonable and appropriate plan or is simply going to college because there is nothing better to do;
  4. the ability of the child to contribute to his own support through part-time employment;
  5. the age of the child;
  6. the child’s past academic performance, whether the child is demonstrating success in the chosen course of studies;
  7. what plans the parents made for the education of their children, particularly where those plans were made during cohabitation;
  8. whether or not the child has unilaterally terminated a relationship from the parent from whom support is sought.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Application of the Farden Factors

In practice, we are commonly asked the following questions when it comes to stopping child support for adult children attending post-secondary education:

My child took time off between ending high school and starting university. Do I still have to pay child support for my adult child?

To be frank, it depends on the circumstances. However, generally speaking it is unlikely child support would be owed as your child should have saved towards the post secondary education during the years that the child was working. If support is provided, the child’s ability to contribute would likely be factored in to the support order.

My child is eighteen years old and intends to take a year off to travel before starting University in the fall. Do I still have to pay child support?

Yes, it is likely that the payor parent will have to pay child support. The time off from school is short and there is a clear intention to return to school to obtain a post-secondary degree or diploma in the fall. It is unlikely that the child would earn a significant income during this period to become self-sufficient.

My child will be attending a University in another Province. Do I still have to pay child support for my adult child?

If your child attends university away from home then typically base child support is suspended and the child’s university expenses is shared as a Section 7 expense. However, base child support would be payable during the spring and summer months when your child is back living at home. In some cases, base child support will still be payable when a child is attending school away from home.

My child has graduated with a bachelor’s degree and has been accepted into a master’s program / Law School / Medical School. Do I still have to pay child support for my adult child?

In this scenario the court would consider whether the child was eligible to receive loans or financial assistance to cover the continued educational expense. The parent’s own level of education may also be relevant, for example if the parents came from a background of higher education or had encouraged higher education during the relationship then it is arguable that it’s foreseeable that the child would also attain higher education. The parent’s financial position and ability to contribute would also be relevant. Other factors would include whether the career plans of the child were realistic, including whether the child was likely to be successful in their chosen field.

What about our child’s RESPs?

If the parents have contributed to a RESP fund, all funds available in the RESP should be used prior to sharing the university costs between the parents.

If you need to stop paying child support for your adult children or want to discuss your child support obligations, contact us to set up your initial consultation.

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