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When Does Child Support End?

October 6, 2016

There is a common misconception that the right to pay child support automatically ends when a child reaches 18 years of age.  However, the law in Canada provides that child support can continue past the child reaching 18 years of age if he or she is enrolled in a full-time program of education, or is unable to withdraw from parental control, or obtain the necessaries of life as a result of illness, disability or other cause.

Until the child reaches 18 years of age, there is a presumption that the child support amount payable will be based on the payor parent’s income and the amounts stipulated in the Child Support Guidelines.  However, once the child reaches 18 years of age, that presumption is not necessarily applicable as it is possible that an amount other than the amount listed in the Child Support Guidelines can be considered appropriate and sufficient.  The determination of the appropriate amount of child support to be paid will vary and may be based on, but is not limited to, the circumstances of the child and parents and the ability of the child to contribute towards his or her own support.

An example, and an occurrence that may create confusion amongst separated parents, is when a child is over 18 and enrolled in a full-time program of education but is not residing with the recipient parent on a full-time basis.  In this situation, full table monthly child support may not be appropriate.  The child support amount paid is intended to cover expenses, which include but are not limited to, the daily living expenses that the recipient parent is incurring as a result of the child residing with him or her for the majority of the time.  If a child is living away from home for school then the recipient parent is not necessarily incurring those expenses, however, but is still maintaining a household for the child when he or she returns.  As a result, the table amount of child support may be deviated from, and instead an amount may be paid that provides sufficient support for the child during the periods of time that he or she is residing with the recipient parent.

In addition to providing child support in an appropriate amount given the circumstances of the child, the payor parent may also be expected to contribute towards his or her post-secondary expenses (such as tuition, residency, textbooks, etc.) in proportion to his or her income provided that those expenses are considered to be special and extraordinary.

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