Does child support end when a child turns 18?
November 7, 2019 By: Emma Costain Read Time: 2 minutes
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Not necessarily. Child support is based on a child’s level of dependency, not just their age.

In many cases, a child’s entitlement to support will extend for several years after they reach the age of majority.

Who is a “child” for child support purposes?

Two pieces of legislation govern child support in Ontario: the Family Law Act (if the parents were unmarried) and the Divorce Act (if the parents were married). Although they use slightly different language, the same principles apply in both cases.

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In many cases, a child’s entitlement to support will extend for several years after they reach the age of majority.

Section 31 of Ontario’s Family Law Act outlines a parent’s obligation to provide support for their child. A child is entitled to support if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • they are a minor;
  • they are enrolled in a full-time program of education; or
  • they are unable by reason of illness, disability, or other cause to withdraw from the charge of their parents.

A parent does not have an obligation to provide support to a child who:

  • is 16 years of age or older and has withdrawn from parental control; or
  • is married.

Section 2 of the Divorce Act defines a “child of the marriage” entitled to support as a child who:

  • is under the age of majority and has not withdrawn from the charge of their parents; or
  • is the age of majority or over and under the charge of their parents but unable, by reason of illness, disability, or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.

So, whether the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act applies, a child’s entitlement to support depends on their level of self-sufficiency. Two common situations in which an adult child will remain eligible for support are where they are pursuing a post-secondary education on a full-time basis or have a disability that prevents them from becoming financially independent.

Is there a cut-off point for the support of adult children?

There is no automatic cut-off point for child support; a child’s entitlement to support is fact-specific and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Generally speaking, a child is entitled to support for as long as they continue to attend school on a full-time basis, up to the completion of their first post-secondary degree. However, there are cases in which the courts have ordered support for children enrolled in their second and even third post-secondary programs. The amount of support will depend on the child’s ability to contribute to their own needs, such as by earning employment income in the summer months, receiving scholarships, or applying for student loans.

For an adult child with a disability, there may be no specified end date for support if the child’s needs are indefinite, although the receipt of other income, such as ODSP, will impact the amount of support awarded.

If you have questions about whether an adult child is eligible for ongoing support, and in what amount, you should speak with a family lawyer who can give you advice tailored to your particular circumstances.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2019 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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