The Family Law Act requires every parent to provide for the support of his or her unmarried child who is under the age of 18 or enrolled in a full-time education program. The Divorce Act, which is the federal statute, requires child support to be paid for a “child of the marriage”, which is a child under the age of majority, over the age of majority who is under 18, or who is over 18 but cannot become independent by reason of illness, disability, or another cause (read as an educational pursuit).
While there is some small difference in the wording, the reality is that child support is payable in Ontario up to and including one four-year university degree and/or college equivalent, unless a child stops attending school.
Even if a child stops attending school, if they return to school before their late or mid-20s, the likelihood of your obligation to support the child through their educational studies for a minimum of four years is very high. Courts tend to lean on the side of the child, saying that a child — even one who does not have a relationship with the parent, unless one can prove that this is the child’s specific actions as opposed to the effect of parental discord — will still receive support.
The “normal kid” should also contribute toward their educational costs, and the courts tend to see a contribution somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 from summer earnings. The court realizes the difficulty to earn money for kids, and the fact that many kids pay some of their own travel, recreational, or clothing expenses does not set a high standard for contribution by children, even ones going to university.
If the child lives at home while going to university, normal table amounts of child support under the child support guidelines will still be paid, and the parents will share proportional costs for tuition and books. This is, of course, subject to the contribution of the child.
During the months when the child is away at school, normal child support under the tables may be vastly reduced or stopped completely, and the parents will share (proportional to their income) the educational costs, including residence, or equivalent rent, food, clothing, books, healthcare costs, and transportation, also subject to contribution by the child.
Issues of child support can be complex, and you should consult a divorce lawyer.
Judith Holzman is a collaboratively trained family lawyer who has practiced for over 33 years in the Toronto and York Region area. She has participated in amendments to the Family Law Act (provincial) and the Divorce Act (federal) in the area of religious divorce.