Child Support: Adult Children

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Do I have to pay support for my adult child if we have a poor relationship?  

The question of continuing to pay support for adult children most often arises in the context of children who decide to pursue a post-secondary education.  When a child decides to pursue a post-secondary education, child support obligations tend to continue.  But what happens when an adult child pursuing higher education has little or no relationship with the parent paying their support?

Did you know? Child support includes contributing to tuition. You can learn about that here.   

What is an Adult Child?  

The Divorce Act (which applies if you were married) restricts eligibility for child support to children under the age of majority who have not withdrawn from parental charge. The age of majority is set by each province; in Ontario, children are considered to have reached the age of majority by age 18.

Under the Divorce Act, an adult child is a child over the age of majority who is unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from parental charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.  The phrase “other cause” can include pursuing post-secondary education.

A Note About Parental Control:  Having a poor relationship with an adult child who is heading off to university is not the same as that child withdrawing from parental charge.  Withdrawal from parental charge happens when a minor leaves home voluntarily with the intent of severing ties and striking out on their own, and in the absence of intolerable conditions. Attending post-secondary school does not, in itself, qualify as withdrawing from parental charge.  

The Quality of a Parent-Child Relationship is Irrelevant

You may be surprised to learn there is no legal requirement for adult children to have a good relationship with their payor parent. In fact, it is not necessary for them to have any form of relationship with the payor parent in order to qualify for support. It would be rare for a court to terminate support based on the quality of a relationship between a child support payor and an adult child.  Courts have said that there must be “egregious circumstances”.  In other words, the existence or quality of a relationship rarely affects the adult child's entitlement to continued support.  

When Does the Obligation End?

Generally speaking, parents must maintain a child through the completion of the first post-secondary degree. However, after this point, there is nothing limiting the parent's obligation to support a child in their subsequent degree(s).  

Support can extend past the first degree depending on the financial circumstances of the parents and the child, the child’s academic performance, their career plans, their dependency on their parents for support, the family’s expectation with regards to the child’s education, and many other factors.

A Final Word

These situations can be very fact dependent, and there are important differences in laws and definitions governing child support for parents who are not divorcing or were not married. You should contact your lawyer for information and advice specific to your situation.