Anne McFarlane – April 2016
When your child finishes high school and moves onto college or university, it may be unclear if and when your child support obligation will end. Although it is a very exciting time for you and your child, it may make you see dollar signs, even if you are supportive of your child’s educational pursuits.
The applicable legislation provides context as to which adult children will still meet the requirements of a child for whom child support should be payable. More often than not, children are considered dependent and child support will be payable until that child reaches the age of majority. In Nova Scotia, that is when the child turns 19 years of age. However, it may sometimes be inappropriate for a child under the age of majority to receive child support. This may be the case when the child has moved out of their parents’ homes, has acquired full-time employment, or is able to support themselves fully.
A determination regarding child support for adult children is a subjective analysis. There is no definite formula to apply, and no magic number. The amount that is appropriate to pay for child support for an adult child is very dependent on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to:
- The supporting parent’s income
- Where the child is living (with a parent, in residence, in an apartment, etc.)
- If the child is enrolled in school full-time or part-time
- If the child is able to work full-time or part-time
- The monthly budgets of the parents and the child
In addition to monthly child support payments, a child’s educational costs are considered a shareable expense under the child support legislation. This includes a child’s college or university tuition, associated fees, books, etc. These expenses are presumptively shareable proportionately, based on the respective incomes of the parties. This means if you are the higher income earner, you will likely be paying a higher portion of your child’s education costs.
However, this is only a starting point. A judge may determine that a proportionate sharing of a child’s educational expenses is not what is most fair for a particular family’s circumstances. Further, if you have a prior agreement (such as a separation agreement) that indicates you will share this expense differently, this may change your obligation.
Generally, adult children are expected to assist with the cost of their educational expenses. Just how much your child should contribute to these costs depends on a number of factors, some of which include:
- How much your child has access to in the way of educational savings
- How much your child is able to earn from part-time or summer employment
- The amount your child is eligible for in scholarships and bursaries
- The amount, if any, of financial assistance from other family members
This is a subjective area of law, which requires legal analysis to answer correctly. If you are unsure about your child support obligation for your adult child, a family lawyer at MDW Law would be happy to discuss your matter.