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Understanding Your Parental Responsibility for Your Child's Education

  • Parental Obligations: Parents must fund their child's education under the Family Law Act, regardless of divorce or separation.
  • Support Beyond Age 18: Financial obligations can continue for adult children in post-secondary education, as they may still qualify as "children of the marriage."
  • Court Considerations: Factors like income, academic performance, and the availability of scholarships are considered when determining support amounts.
Children Listening to their Teacher Read

From Kindergarten to College

As children grow older, many clients, both payor's and payees, question the impact age and post-secondary education may have on the payor's financial obligations.

Parental Obligations Under the Family Law Act

Under s.31.1 of the Family Law Act, all parents have an obligation to fund their child's education when "enrolled in a full-time program of education" as minors. Divorced or separated parents are bound to this obligation as education falls under the many financial responsibilities couples must allocate during a separation.

What happens when your child reaches the age of majority? Are you no longer required to support them financially?

Short Answer: No. In Ontario, the law does not impose cut-offs based on age for financial obligations. Under the law, the term "child" refers not to the legal age of the person but simply means "a child of the marriage." Hence, even if an adult child is well over the age of 18, they may still qualify for support as a "child of the marriage." Given that the basis of support is to ensure the child's best interest, the courts can find that an obligation to fund post-secondary education is appropriate.

Support Obligations Beyond the First Degree

Does my financial obligation end once I have supported my child through one degree?

Short Answer: Not necessarily. There is no specific cut-off for support obligations after a child obtains their first post-secondary degree. Support obligations are complex and do not have a one-size-fits-all answer. In certain cases, while a child may be eligible for support, the court may find the obligation to fund the first post-secondary education inappropriate. In other cases, the court may find that a parent must fund multiple post-secondary degrees for their child. Similarly, a parent may have to contribute more towards their expenses than others depending on the facts of the situation.

Factors Considered by the Court

Like the calculation for minor children, the amount of support obligated depends on your income and is determined on a case-by-case basis. The court will also consider various other factors when making its decision, including:

  • Your child's capacity to earn an income (i.e., disability)
  • Enrollment in a post-secondary institution
  • Your child's student status (full-time, part-time attendance and reasoning)
  • Availability of bursaries, scholarships, and loans
  • Your child's academic performance
  • Your child's budgetary constraints
  • Whether your child is still under the care of a parent

Seeking Legal Advice

If you are unsure about your obligations regarding your children's post-secondary education or need assistance in modifying your support order, we recommend consulting an experienced family lawyer who can provide tailored advice specific to your situation.

Our team at INB Family Law has extensive experience assisting clients in navigating support matters and their financial responsibilities towards their children. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.