Kay Rhodenizer – August 2019
In Nova Scotia a child becomes a legal adult at age 19. Until then there is a legal presumption in the Child Support Guidelines that a child is entitled to monthly support (“table amount”) based on the income of the parent required to pay support, unless the child spends at least 40% of the time with each parent. This is called shared custody and table amounts may change to reflect this.
An adult child over 19 can be entitled to support if s/he is still financially dependent.
The Nova Scotia Parenting and Support Act defines a dependent adult child as someone unable to withdraw from the charge of parents (or guardians) or obtain the necessaries of life because of illness, disability or other cause. The Divorce Act uses the same criteria, but calls dependent adult children “children of the marriage.”
It is well established law that “other cause” includes attending post-secondary education, but what each parent must contribute to support after high-school is very fact specific. Among other things, judges consider:
- Where the child lives while in school: If still living with one parent, it is quite usual to order that this parent receives monthly child support to assist with the student’s basic living expenses (food, housing, clothing, personal expenses, etc.)
- Each parent’s income: This determines what each parent should contribute to uninsured health care expenses and school costs such as tuition and books (and to residence/food expenses if a child lives away from home while in school).
- What the child can contribute from part-time earnings, scholarships and bursaries.
The most usual way health care and school costs are shared is proportionate to the parents’ incomes, minus any tax deductions/credits available for these costs and minus whatever the child can contribute. Depending on the family’s finances a judge may order support that covers all expenses or alternatively just a contribution that may then require a child to obtain a student loan to finance the short-fall.
Whether the parents will be required to contribute to the costs of more than one degree is also very fact specific since our judges recognize that an undergraduate degree may not provide a sufficient education to obtain a job.
Some adult children decide to work for a time before starting post-secondary education or to take time off between academic years to work and/or travel. Often called “gap kids” judges usually expect these children to contribute at least something to or perhaps pay all of their basic expenses during the gap. The reasons for the gap and the parents’ views about the necessity for the gap become relevant as does the length of the gap if a child who becomes dis-entitled to support later resumes his/her schooling.
This blog is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of this topic or legal advice. Every case turns on its specific facts. If you or a family member require advice about child support in this type of situation our MDW Law lawyers can help you determine what a judge might do in your particular circumstances.