Putting Children's Interest First - Federal-Provincial-Territorial Consultations on Custody and Access and Child Support

Part 2: Child Support (continued)

CHILD SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN AT OR OVER THE AGE OF MAJORITY

Did You Know?

The laws that allow parents and judges to determine child support for children at or over the age of majority apply in most provinces and territories to intact families. Parents who are not separated or divorced may have a legal obligation to support their older children.

Federal, provincial and territorial laws allow judges to consider all of a family's circumstances when deciding on child support for older children. This goes some way to overcoming thedisadvantage that research shows children of separated or divorced parents have when it comes to paying for post-secondary education.

The age of majority is 18 in six provinces: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.

The age of majority is 19 in four provinces and the three territories: British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and Yukon.

The federal government and several provincial and territorial governments continue to support the position that judges and parents may set child support amounts for children who are at or over the age of majority on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, this document does not deal with the issue of older children's eligibility for child support. Other issues concerning to whom the payments should be made, and how the amount is determined, are addressed below.

Child Support Paid Directly to Children

The guidelines recognize that older children who are still dependent on their parents may have child support needs that are different from those of younger children. Older children may have part-time jobs or live away from home while going to school.

Some parents and other people have questioned whether the paying parent should have to continue to pay the child support for older children to the receiving parent (who provides a home for the children), or be able to pay it directly to the children.

Some paying parents say that they would be satisfied that the child support is being spent on the children if it were paid directly to those children. They say that this might also help ease tension between the parents.

Receiving parents point out that they continue to have costs, such as maintaining the home, to support their older children even when those children are away at school for part of the year. Receiving parents are concerned that they may not be compensated for their costs when the child support is paid directly to the children.

Here are a few additional points to consider when answering the questions below:

  • Who will enforce a child support order when the support is paid directly to the children?
  • Do the children have the experience or ability to manage large amounts of money?
  • What impact does receiving child support have on the children's eligibility for student loans?

Questions

Should the child support guidelines allow paying parents to pay child support directly to children at or over the age of majority?

  • Yes
  • No

Why?

What factors should judges consider when deciding whether the paying parent should pay support directly to children?

Should the children be able to choose whether to receive support directly from the paying parent or not?

  • Yes
  • No

Why?

Is it important for the receiving parent to agree that the paying parent will pay support directly to the children?

  • Yes
  • No

Why?

Disclosure of Information

As children grow up and begin to make their way in the world, they become less dependent on their parents. During those transition years, it can be difficult to tell, however, where parental support leaves off and independence begins, and certainly each child’s situation is unique.

Given this, many people suggest that receiving parents and older children should have to show that there is an ongoing need for child support to continue. This could be done by allowing the paying parent to ask once a year for information such as school records, lease agreements or other financial documents related to the children. This requirement would apply in all cases when support is to be paid for children at or over the age of majority, not just in those cases that include special expenses. Special expenses are those expenses, such as tuition for post-secondary education, that are beyond what is covered by the child support table amount. Under the guidelines, there is a section that requires parents to produce records to justify all special expenses. However, this provision does not extend to producing information about other expenses that the parents may have, related to the table amount or another amount paid for older children.

Many parents want proof that their older children are in school and, therefore, still entitled to the child support they are paying.

Other parents believe that the current rules and methods for disclosure are sufficient, and that additional requirements would be intrusive. Some parents think that involving children in their parents’ dispute may have negative effects on the children.

An additional point to consider when answering the questions below is that, when support is paid directly to children, it is the children who may have to disclose financial and other information, not their parents. Children have not traditionally been a part of legal proceedings and, historically, courts have been reluctant to directly involve children of any age in their parents’ proceedings.

Questions

Do you think the child support guidelines should be changed so that either the receiving parent or the children at or over the age of majority must provide the paying parent with information about the status of the children (for example, about their schooling, living arrangements or employment situation) once a year? This would apply in all cases when support is to be paid for children at or over the age of majority, not just in those cases that include special expenses.

  • Yes
  • No

Why?

Please describe in your feedback booklet any other option for addressing this issue that you think would be effective and explain why it would work.

Do you think the child support guidelines should be changed so that either the receiving parent or the children at or over the age of majority must provide the paying parent with information about the children’s finances once a year? (This would apply in all cases when support is to be paid for children at or over the age of majority, not just in those that include special expenses.)

  • Yes
  • No

Why?

Please describe in your feedback booklet any other option for addressing this issue that you think would be effective and explain why it would work.

Since the introduction of the Divorce Act in 1968, the divorce laws in Canada have allowed parents and judges to determine child support for older children who are unable to provide for themselves because of illness, disability, or other reasons. In cases over the years, the courts have ruled that these other reasons include secondary and post-secondary studies.

Prior to the 1997 changes to the Divorce Act, judges were allowed to decide whether parents had to make child support payments for children 16 years of age or older. The amended legislation raised that threshold to the age of majority of the province or territory in which the children live (age 18 or 19; see box). Most provinces and territories have laws in place so parents and courts can determine child support for children at or over the age of majority when the parents are separating but not divorcing, or were never married.

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