“When does my obligation to pay child support end?” This is a question I’m often asked by clients and many are surprised to learn that their obligation to pay child support does not necessarily end when a child turns 19. In addition, many are even more surprised to learn that they have to pay child support if the child is not living at home in order to attend school.
Both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act have broad provisions that provide for ongoing child support for a variety of reasons. However, most cases involve a child who is 19 and is attending school or is disabled.
Child support is not automatically awarded if a child over the age of majority is attending school. The court looks at a number of factors including but not limited to the following:
- 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;
- whether or not the child has applied for or is eligible for student loans or other financial assistance;
- 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;
- the ability of the child to contribute to his own support through part-time employment;
- the age of the child;
- the child’s past academic performance, whether the child is demonstrating success in the chosen course of studies;
- what plans the parents made for the education of their children, particularly where those plans were made during cohabitation;
- at least in the case of a mature child who has reached the age of majority, whether or not the child has unilaterally terminated a relationship from the parent from whom support is sought.
In many cases even if a parent is required to pay child support for a child over the age of majority the amount of child support payable may not necessarily be the full amount pursuant to the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Because an adult child has an obligation to contribute to their own expenses. However, each case is unique and the courts look at a variety of factors.
Adult child support can be a contentious issue in family law cases. If you are paying or receiving child support and have questions, please contact one of our family law lawyers.