In many situations child support must continue to be paid for children even after the child turns 18 years old.
There are many factors to be considered in determining whether or not an adult child is entitled to receive child support. But, what about an adult child who chooses to not have a relationship with their payor parent?
In situations where the parents are separated and divorced, parents often have little discretion as to whether they continue to provide financial support to a child once that child has turned 18 years old, providing that certain criteria are met.
When a court considers the issue of ongoing support for a child over the age of 18, the judge must review a number of factors including:
• What would the parents have decided if their marriage had remained intact?
• To what degree is the child able to earn an income to contribute to his or her own education?
• Are the child’s living expenses reasonable?
• Are the child’s career plans reasonable?
• Is the child likely to benefit from the program of study?
• Is part-time employment available and, if so, would it harm the student’s ability to benefit from her studies?
• Has there been an unjustified unilateral termination of a relationship with the payor parent?
• Is the student eligible for student loans or other financial assistance?
These factors, of course, are neither all inclusive nor applicable in every factual situation before the court.
Manitoba judges have said that even if a child withdraws from the parent-child relationship, there are other good reasons for support to continue to be paid.
One reason is that the child technically does not "owe" the parent a relationship and adult child is not obligated to be nice to a parent in exchange for money or other benefits. Another reason is that post-secondary education is considered to be a goal that society has for children and parents should, in most cases, be required to support this education.
The courts have said that only in the worst cases should support for an adult child be terminated if the child severs the relationship with his or her parent. One example from Ontario is that of an adult son who seriously assaulted his mother. In this situation it was deemed that the son had, through his behaviour, caused the damage in the parent-child relationship and the mother was not responsible for his conduct. In that case, the son’s behaviour was considered to be so awful that when combined with other factors as listed above, it would not be appropriate for the mother to have to continue to pay child support.
In summary, decisions from various courts across Canada tell us that a child’s rejection of the parent, even if unjustified, is only a factor which can be considered in removing the obligation of the parent to support the child. Even in the worst situations, it would be rare that the parental rejection is the only factor leading to the termination of child support.
» Kelli Potter is a lawyer with Paterson, Patterson, Wyman and Abel, with offices in Brandon, Neepawa and Virden.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2013