Many parents are under the misconception that child support ends when their child turns 18 or even graduates from high school. However, that is not always true. If your child chooses to pursue a post-secondary education, you could still be required to make child support payments. But how does it work if my child chooses to live on campus or away from home for college or university? This is a much-debated topic and it really comes down to the facts of the situation.
Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, a child could still be considered a “child” for the purposes of child support even if they are living on their own in post-secondary school.
According to paragraph 3(2) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines:
Child the age of majority or over
(2) Unless otherwise provided under these Guidelines, where a child to whom a child support order relates is the age of majority or over, the amount of the child support order is
(a) the amount determined by applying these Guidelines as if the child were under the age of majority; or
(b) if the court considers that approach to be inappropriate, the amount that it considers appropriate, having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the child.
I want to focus on two different types of support payable when a child is in post-secondary school. There is the standard monthly child support payable (Section 3) and the special and extraordinary expenses that are payable (Section 7). Sometimes, these payment obligations continue even past the child’s first diploma or bachelor’s degree and until they are self-sufficient.
When a child chooses to live on campus or away from home for their post-secondary school, the standard monthly child support may not be appropriate for the child and the Federal Child Support Guidelines acknowledges that. As lawyers, we look for key factors when it comes to this. These factors include:
- the child’s age;
- full time or part time education;
- viable career options;
- plans for post-secondary education made when the parents were still together;
- what post-secondary funding would have looked like if the parents were still together;
- other sources of funding for the child;
- ability of the child to contribute towards their own education;
- type of program the child wants to pursue;
- child’s grades and future plans;
- child’s attendance record;
- where the child is living; and
- any other contribution method applied for such as loans bursaries, scholarships etc.
The burden of providing this info usually falls on the parent who is claiming child support, also known as the recipient.
The Federal Child Support Guidelines have terms that reflect that the needs of an older child in post-secondary school differs from that of a younger child. In addition, the recipient parent would not have the same expenses for that child if they choose to live away from home for school. Although, it is noteworthy that the recipient parent would still have carrying costs of the home to pay for even when the child has moved away because it is expected that the child would come home to visit, come home for the summer and holidays.
It is reasonable for the monthly amount of child support payable to the recipient parent to decrease from the table amount of child support while the child is living away from home for post-secondary school. At the same time, it can sometimes also be reasonable for the paying parent to only pay for the summer months when the child is back to residing at home with the recipient parent.
This situation can become complicated because of the circumstances of the situation. It is best to speak to one of our experienced family law lawyers to help you navigate through the system and case law to make sure that you are fully informed and are proceeding the best way possible.