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Canadian statistics have shown that more and more young adults (eighteen years and older) are still living at home, and therefore still relying on their parents for financial aid.

At the same time, parents are living longer and may rely on their children for support as they lose independence and capacity.

So what are the responsibilities of parents to their children, and vice-versa?

This is a very broad question, and one that can be answered from a variety of perspectives – legal, moral, etc. However, from a family law perspective, when a child reaches the age of majority, the bulk of the parental rights and obligations concerning their children no longer apply.

There is no automatic entitlement to child support, although it can continue where the child is enrolled in a full-time course of education or where the child is otherwise unable to withdraw from their parents’ care. A parent no longer has custody of a child past 18 years of age, and likewise a parent cannot exercise “access” to a person over 18, as courts lose their jurisdiction to make custody and access orders for a person over this age. At this point, the child is free to spend their time with whichever parent they choose.

With respect to the rights and obligations of children concerning their parents, there are a few. Under section 32 of the Family Law Act, children who are over the age of majority (and who have withdrawn from parental care) have an obligation to support their parents where necessary. However, there are two conditions attached – the parent must have “cared or provided support” to the child, and the support is limited to the extent to which the child can provide. This is a rarely litigated section of the Family Law Act, but there have been historical cases where impecunious parents have received orders for support from their grown children.

While they are not technically “rights and responsibilities”, the common law has developed rules governing the relationship between parents and adult children in some situations. One of the most common is the transfer of property.

When an adult transfers property to a minor child, the transfer is presumed to be a gift, unless contrary evidence can be proven. When an adult transfers property to an adult child, it is presumed to be a loan and that the child will pay the parent back.

These issues commonly arise in the context of property division, where an adult spouse owns property jointly with their parent or the parent has transferred property to their child, which may form part of that spouse’s net family property. Many people enter into these transfers with their aging parents as an estate-planning measure and do not realize the family law implications.

If you or your spouse owns property with their parent (or adult child), it is important to speak to a family law lawyer about how to best protect your rights.

For any further questions about your rights or responsibilities in the family law context, contact one of the experienced lawyers in 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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