Is Child Support Payable for Adult Children?

By Tanya Thakur, Vancouver Family Lawyer

Child support ends when a child reaches the age of majority (which is 19 years old in British Columbia). This is the case unless the child, in the words of section 2 of the Divorce Act, is unable to withdraw from the care of their parents or obtain the necessaries of life. What options does the parent have?

The parent can apply for child support for an adult child. To do so, they must prove to the court that the adult child remains a child of marriage as in Classen v. Anima, 2011 BCSC 868. In other words, if the child in question is over the age of 19, there is no presumption that child support should continue. The parent applying for child support must persuade the court that the child is unable to withdraw from the care of their parents or to obtain the necessaries of life.

The term “necessaries of life” is not limited to food, home, and clothing. It will vary with the specific applicant considering their reasonable expectations: Lougheed v. Lougheed, 2007 BCCA 396 at paras. 23 and 25.

Despite reaching the age of majority, a child may not be able to withdraw from the care of their parents for many reasons including:

  • Illness
  • Disability
  • Enrollment in post-secondary education

Where a child is pursuing post-secondary education, mere attendance at an educational institution is not sufficient to determine that they remain a child of marriage as per W.P.M. v. B.J.M., 2005 BCCA 7 at paras. 18, 22. The court must determine whether the adult child should be entitled to continued support from their parents, taking into account their particular academic, financial and family circumstances as in Beninger v. Beninger, 2010 BCSC 1509 at para. 15.

In determining whether an adult child attending post-secondary education remains a child of marriage, the court may consider the following factors, which are described in Farden v. Farden (1993) at p. 64-65 (the “Farden Factors”):

  1. Whether the child is in fact enrolled in a course of studies on a full time or part time basis
  2. Whether the child has applied for, or is eligible for, student loans or other types of financial assistance
  3. Whether the child has a plan of pursuing educational goals that is related to a career or other reasonable objectives
  4. Whether the child can contribute to their own support through part-time work
  5. The age of the child
  6. The child’s past and current success in the education program
  7. The parents’ plans for the children’s education, particularly if the plans were made during the marriage
  8. Whether the child has unilaterally terminated his or her relationship with the parent from whom support is sought

In addition to the Farden Factors, the court may also consider any other factors that are relevant to the specific case.

If the court finds that the adult child in question is a child of the marriage, the court may order child support according to Section 3(2) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”), which is reproduced below:
 (2) Unless otherwise provided under these Guidelines, where a child to whom a child support order relates is the age of majority or over, the amount of the child support order is
  (a) the amount determined by applying these Guidelines as if the child were under the age of majority; or
  (b) if the court considers that approach to be inappropriate, the amount that it considers appropriate, having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the child.

Under Section 3(2)(b), the court has the discretion to award a lesser child support amount than the amount under the Guidelines.

If you are seeking to apply for child support for an adult child or are a payor facing such an application, we encourage you to seek professional legal advice. The family lawyers at Crossroads Law can assist by providing you with the right advice to help you assess this issue. Start by booking your free 20-minute consult today.

The information contained in this blog is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only.