Does child support continue when my child becomes an adult?

By Matthew Katsionis, BC Legal Coach

In British Columbia, it is often assumed that the age of majority, or the age when a young person becomes an adult in the eyes of the law, is 18. However, it is actually 19. This means that child support must continue until age 19, but what happens after that? Several factors can influence whether child support should continue, including your child’s current education status, their progress in their career plans, and the nature of their relationship with the parent.

The following blog will help you understand how these factors play into child support obligations.

What factors are considered for paying child support when a child becomes an adult?

There are a variety of factors to consider if child support is to be paid into adulthood. Not every factor needs to be met, but generally, a combination of several factors determines whether child support should continue. The factors are:

  1. Whether the child is enrolled in a course of studies and whether it is a full-time or part-time.
  2. Whether or not the child has applied for or is eligible for student loans or other financial assistance.
  3. The career plans of the child i.e., whether the child has some reasonable and appropriate plan or is simply going to college because there is nothing better to do.
  4. The ability of the child to contribute to their own support through part-time employment.
  5. The age of the child.
  6. The child’s past academic performance, whether the child is demonstrating success in their chosen course of studies.
  7. What plans the parents made for the education of their children, particularly where those plans were made during cohabitation.
  8. At least in the case of a mature child who has reached the age of majority, whether the child has unilaterally terminated a relationship from the parent from whom support is sought.

Important information to support your argument for continued child support There is a variety of information that support an argument for the continuation of child support, including:

  • The child’s class schedule showing the child is in full-time studies,
  • The child’s transcript showing that they are academically doing well. “Well” typically means advancing in their program.
  • Information showing that the child is working towards a degree, diploma, trade qualification.
  • Information that essentially shows the child’s direction in post-secondary education is clear.
  • Confirmation that the child remains living with the parent claiming child support.
  • If the child is working, copies of their paystubs and, if available, their tax returns.
  • Text messages, e-mails, or other information showing that the spouses had a plan or had agreed that the child would obtain a post-secondary education.
  • Your financial information and that of your spouse. Parties who are in a better financial position are more likely to continue contributing than those who are not.

What if my child cannot leave my care for medical, neurological, or developmental reasons?

In cases where the child has a disability where they are medically unable to work on their own, be on their own, attend school, or financially support themselves consistently, ongoing child support will often be required, regardless of age. The following evidence is necessary to establish the need for ongoing support: 

  • Up to date medical records.
  • A doctor’s opinion.
  • A second opinion confirming the initial opinion (this not necessary but would be very helpful).
  • Any assessments of the child’s disability or challenges.
  • A list of medications and prescriptions.
  • Report cards from high school.
  • Reporting letters from interventionists and/or therapists, if any.

Do I need to pay child support if my child has no relationship with me?

After the child turns 19, and if they do not have any disabilities, you may not have to continue paying child support (even if the child is enrolled in a full time post-secondary program). If a child independently severs their relationship with a parent, despite the parent’s demonstrable efforts to maintain that relationship, this could support an argument for discontinuing child support. A child will likely not get the benefit of ongoing support if they do not have a relationship with that parent. Of course, this changes if the child has a disability where they are reliant on a parent to take care of them.  

What if my child wants to get a second degree?

Child support does not arbitrarily end after the completion of the child’s first degree, diploma, or trade certificate/training. The analysis would be similar to the factors set out above, but within reason. An example of when a child would continue to receive support beyond a first degree may be a child who is in a PhD program or continues to pursue their education in good academic standing, full-time, and consistently. 

What if my financial situation does not support continuing to pay?

The court does not want parents getting themselves into insurmountable debt, or in a position where it is quite clear that a parent or parents cannot afford it. There is no hard and fast rule on what income you need to determine whether a party can afford supporting their child through post-secondary education. It is relevant to the type of program, tuition and associated costs, and child support considerations.

Paying child support when a child becomes the age of majority and beyond is not as straight forward as one would think. Getting support from a legal professional may be helpful to better understand your obligations. Speak with one of our legal coaches today to learn more about your situation - the first 20-minutes are free, and you can call or book online.