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This is the fourth in a series of blog posts summarizing some of the things that happened in 2017 that may impact on your family. This post will discuss child support for adult children with disabilities.

Broadening of child support eligibility for adult children with disabilities of unmarried parents

Until recently, Ontario was one of only two jurisdictions in Canada that excluded adult children with disabilities from being eligible for child support if they did not attend school full-time and had unmarried parents. At the end of 2017, the Ontario government amended the Family Law Act (FLA) through Bill 177, Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures). Effective January 1, 2018, section 31(1)(c) of the FLA reads:

“Every parent has an obligation to provide support, to the extent that the parent is capable of doing so, for his or her unmarried child who is unable by reason of illness, disability or other cause to withdraw from the charge of his or her parents.”

The Ontario government proposed this change after an unmarried mother of an adult son with disabilities successfully challenged the FLA’s constitutionality in Coates v Watson. The father sought to stop paying child support once the child turned 18 years old. Under the provincial law, an adult child with a disability whose parents were unmarried and who did not attend school full-time was not eligible for child support. By contrast, the federal law that applied to married parents did not have this restriction. The Ontario Court of Justice found that this discrepancy violated the mother’s and son’s equality rights.

Following the amendment of section 31(1)(c), the FLA is now consistent with federal law and most other Canadian jurisdictions. This was an important development in ensuring that Ontario’s family laws reflect Charter rights and do not unfairly disadvantage its families.

If you would like to learn more about how any of the above legislative changes may impact you, contact our Family Law Group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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