In BC, divorced or separated parents are obligated to pay child support while their children remain in their charge and until they reach the age of 19.
What happens if the children are above the age of 19? Are parents still required to support their adult child/children?
Many parents will be surprised to discover that child support may not necessarily end when the child/children turn 19 years old. While each case will be different, this article aims to highlight when the law requires you to continue supporting your adult child/children.
Who Can Claim Child Support After Majority Status (19 Years Old) is Attained?
According to the Divorce Act, there are various grounds in which an ‘adult child’ can continue to be eligible for child support.
The two most common reasons why parents may need to continue paying child support include:
- he/she is pursuing post-secondary education, such as attending university; and
- he/she has a severe and chronic illness or disability that hinders him/her from becoming self-sufficient.
Is Child Support for an Adult Child Automatically Awarded?
Child support for an adult child is not automatically granted just because he/she has grounds to claim support in terms of the Divorce Act.
The parent who is attempting to claim child support on behalf of his or her adult child has to prove that the child remains a ‘child of the marriage’. A child must fall within the Divorce Act’s definition of ‘a child of the marriage’ to be eligible for this continued child support. Please note that the age of majority in BC is 19.
Section 2(1) of the Divorce Act defines a ‘child of the marriage’ as:
A child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,
(a) Is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn their charge, or
(b) Is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability, or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.
Factors to Be Considered Before Awarding Adult Child Support
The courts deal with each case based on its individual merits.
However, the courts will generally consider the following factors in each case when deciding whether the child is still considered a ‘child of the marriage’ and subsequently eligible for a child support award:
- the age of the adult child;
- whether the academic program is full-time or part-time. The courts follow the tertiary institution’s guideline on what constitutes full-time. According to most institutions, 60% of a full course load is “full-time”;
- whether the academic program is connected to the child’s career aspirations;
- whether the child has applied for and is eligible to obtain other means of financial assistance, such as through student loans or bursary programs;
- the child’s ability to contribute to his/her support through part-time work;
- the child’s academic performance and dedication to his/her studies;
- the financial position of each parent; and
- any financial plans, such as savings accounts, made by the parents during their marriage to support their child whilst enrolled in college or university.
Courts will generally allow for financial support of an adult child for one tertiary academic program, for example, one degree or one diploma.
However, suppose one or both parents have sufficient income to pay for more than one tertiary academic program. In that case, child support can be claimed for more than one degree program, especially if, during the course of their relationship, they both agreed that that would be the case.
How Much Child Support Can You Claim?
As your adult child should provide for his or her own expenses, the courts will generally only require a parent to pay a part of the child support suggested by the Federal Child Support Guidelines.
An adult child does have the responsibility to support him or herself unless they are unable to do so for academic or disability reasons.
It is possible to claim child support on behalf of your adult child provided that he or she fits the Divorce Act’s description of a ‘child of the marriage’.
Two of the most common cases in which parents claim adult child support is if their adult child is pursuing tertiary education at university or college, or if he or she suffers from a chronic illness or disability which prohibits them from being self-sufficient.
The court will not automatically award child support on behalf of an adult child and will consider various factors on a case-by-case basis.
If you have any queries and would like to discuss your child support options with a family law lawyer, contact us today!
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