I often receive calls from parents who have adult children, and are not sure how long child support should be paid once their child has reached the age of 18.
The answer to that question is: Child Support should be paid as long as the child is, as a result of his or her “illness, disability or other cause” unable to withdraw from their parents’ charge or to obtain the necessaries of life. This phrase, taken from section 35.1(b) of The Family Maintenance Act of Manitoba, has been judicially interpreted to mean that the child, as a result of their unique circumstances, continues to be financially dependent on his or her parents.
Note: there is a requirement that adult children take “reasonable” steps, towards working towards their economic independence. Unless there are very special circumstance which justify it, generally speaking an adult child does not get to live at home, work full-time or part-time, and still be entitled to child support “indefinitely”.
Whether the child is taking “reasonable” steps towards independence is determined taking into account the child’s unique circumstances, and each case is to be determined upon its’ individual facts. For some children, “reasonable” may mean taking a full course load, for others, due to a learning disability for example, “reasonable” may mean taking less courses each semester. In other cases, if a child has significant disabilities that will prevent him or her from being able to live independently, the obligation for support may continue indefinitely.
A child who is living at home, and attending school at a university, community college or other post-secondary institution on a full-time, or substantially full-time basis, will generally be considered to be a “child” for the purposes of requiring base child support.
In addition to base child support, parents are also to contribute to the child’s extraordinary expenses, (known as “s. 7 expenses” in the Child Support Guidelines). The costs of a child’s post-secondary education are routinely included as “s. 7” expenses. The dollar amount of the parents’ obligation to financially contribute to these expenses is determined based on their respective incomes. For example, if one parent earns $100,000, the other earns 50,000 – the proportionate sharing would be 75% and 25% respectively.
If an adult child is working full-time, and is not enrolled in post-secondary courses, the payor parent may seek to have the child support end, even if the child continues to live at home with a parent. As an alternative to ending child support completely, parents may consider entering into an agreement that support will be suspended, and will be resumed again if the child returns to school on a substantially full-time basis.
The Family Law Blog – by Tamara McCaffrey BA, LL
Notice: this article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice based on your individual case. The law is complex, and there are many factors to be taken into account in each case. Should you require legal advice, I would be happy to assist you. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org