The obligation of an adult child to contribute to his or her own support can be found in the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The issue of adult children contributing to his or her own post-secondary educational expenses and the requirement that an adult disabled child contribute through a combination of his/her own ODSP payments is becoming an increasingly common issue.
Once an adult child is found to be eligible for ongoing child support, which means that he or she is still a child of the marriage under the Divorce Act, the legislation dictates that a parent they be required to contribute to post-secondary educational expenses through the Guidelines. The Guidelines consider the child’s contribution in assessing the amount payable by the parents. If a child is living at home while attending a post-secondary educational institution, child support is usually payable in accordance with the Guidelines and the other costs are deemed section 7 expenses. When the child is living away from home and attending school the Guidelines are not presumptive and the court will often consider the child’s actual expenses and apportion their payment between the parents. When the child is over the age of majority the court is to consider whether he or she can make a contribution towards post-secondary educational expenses.
The courts do not have the authority to make a child contribute to his or her own post-secondary educational expenses; it can only bind the parents. However, a child’s ability to contribute will indirectly affect the amount to be paid by the parents. The choices a child makes about his/her post secondary education will also affect what the court believes the child should contribute. The resources of a child can include, among other things, bursaries, grants, scholarships, employment and earnings, capital, and student loans.
The court may also find that adult disabled children have the ability to contribute towards their own support. Factors that will be considered include monies that the child receives from the federal or provincial governments. The non-custodial parent will be obliged to pay child support, although it will not necessarily be the support mandated by the “Tables” to the Guidelines. Adult disabled children who live independently or in a subsidized group home will not be entitled to additional child support, nor will a child or his or her custodial parent is entitled to support from the other parent if the payments from the government meet his or her needs.
In all cases, it is usually the particular facts that determine whether there is an obligation and how much.