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Adult child support responsibilities

While a son or daughter may remain a child at heart for many years, when do they cease to be a “child of the marriage,” as related to a support payor's financial obligations?

That was the question addressed by Toronto family lawyer Kathryn Hendrikx at a recent conference presented by the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario.

Hendrikx, partner with Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP, presented a paper on the topic of adult child support in a session that discussed the nuances of the Child Support Guidelines in conjunction with the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act with respect to child support for children who are over the age of majority.

“Like many aspects of family law, there are clear rules, and then there are the exceptions to the clear rules,” writes Hendrikx. “This topic is one of them.”

The Age of Majority and Accountability Act, the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act all provide information on when a child ceases to be a minor, what defines a “child of the marriage,” and the obligation to provide child support, but the issue continues to be fact specific, says Hendrikx.

“There are many divergent cases that deal with specific fact scenarios,” she writes. “Each set of new facts provides the opportunity for a new decision. Fact specific case law research will be required when faced with real life scenarios. Also, be aware that the issue itself is socially controversial as the end of economic childhood and the transition to financial adulthood is different for every family.”

Hendrikx says counsel dealing with such issues must remember, “The wide range of legal outcomes arising from the issue of entitlement of child support for adult children requires a detailed analysis based both on the relevant statutes and on the particular facts of each case.”

The law sets out guidelines to be followed, but “Adult child support remains a family law oxymoron,” writes Hendrikx.

“While the case law is not ‘clearly confused’ as there are statute and legal principles to follow, the subject area is full of divergent decisions which require diligent research and strong evidence,” she says.


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