Not So Far From The Nest: Children in University and Child Support

Author: Vancouver Family Lawyer Marcus M. Sixta

Many people assume that child support ends when a child reaches the age of majority. This is not always the case. The lawyers at Crossroads Family Law regularly work on child support cases in both British Columbia and Alberta involving children both under and over the age of majority. The age of majority in BC is 19 and in Alberta it is 18.

When a child continues with schooling and attends post-secondary education (university, college, trade school, etc.), the obligation to support that child often continues, as that child may still be a “child” for the purposes of child support payment.

A “child” or “child of the marriage” under the Child Support Guidelines is a child who remains dependent on his or her parents. An adult child attending post-secondary school may be considered a dependent. This continues until that child is self-sufficient or finishes their degree. Sometimes the obligation continues beyond a bachelor’s degree.

There are two types of child support that are paid when a child attends post-secondary education: basic (section 3) support and extraordinary (section 7) expenses. The cost of tuition, books and other mandatory expenses such as school fees are almost always considered section 7 expenses.

There are generally two scenarios that occur when a child attends post-secondary education. The first is when the child continues to reside at home with one of the parents while attending school. The second scenario is when the child resides away from home while going to school.

In either case, the appropriate amount to be paid is not necessarily the basic (section 3) support amount set out in the Child Support Guidelines. This is because the Child Support Guidelines acknowledge that this amount may not be appropriate when dealing with an adult child. Therefore, the normal monthly support amount may be adjusted.

A number of factors will be considered when determining the amount of child support that is appropriate for an adult child in school. Key factors that need to be considered include:

  • Whether the child is attending school full or part-time;
  • The age of the child;
  • The type of program attended and the child’s academic performance;
  • The career plans of the child;
  • Any plans for the post-secondary education that were made by the parents before they separated;
  • Any additional sources of contribution (such as RESPs);
  • The ability of the parents to contribute to the child’s education; and
  • The ability of the child to contribute to their own education through part time employment, scholarships, bursaries and loans.

Documentation regarding the cost of the child’s expenses, confirmation of enrollment, courses, bursaries, scholarships, grants, loans, RESPs and employment will be required, along with any other legal information. Failure to produce these documents can result in a termination of child support payments. The onus is on the parent seeking child support to produce these documents.

Generally speaking, the more closely the living situation resembles that of a minor living at home under the care of a parent, the more likely that the basic (section 3) amount will be the amount set out in the table of the Child Support Guidelines. This is because the parent with whom the child resides continues to have expenses associated with the child such as utilities and food. It is more likely that the amount of child support will decrease from the basic amount, when the living situation differs and the child is not residing at home full-time.

The summer months can be an additional complication, as the child has an obligation to work during these months to help contribute to their cost of living and schooling. Sometimes it is appropriate for the full amount of basic (section 3) child support to continue during this time. Other times, basic (section 3) child support is reduced partially or completely during the summer months. Each situation is fact dependent.

Lastly, a child may also be able to apply for support if they are over the age of majority and going to school. Also, child support may be payable directly to an adult child regardless of who seeks support.

If you have a child attending university and are wondering about child support contact us to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate amount of support, with the top Family Lawyers in Alberta and BC. Call today for legal advice on your child support obligations.

Filed Under
Child Support