When a parent is obligated to pay child support following a divorce or separation, they might expect that once their child (or children) reach the age of 18, that their requirement to provide support might cease to exist. However, that’s not always the case. In some situations, a child can still be dependent on their parents as an adult. One such situation this may occur is if the child is pursuing post-secondary education. However, not everybody pursues college or university study, and some people take a year or more off between high school and further study. In a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the court ruled on whether a mother had to keep paying child support when the children she had with the father waited to decide if and when they would pursue post-secondary educations.

Mother ordered to pay child support upon separation

The parents were married in the summer of 2000 and separated about 17 years later. They had two children while together who were minors at the time of separation. The parties lived together in the matrimonial home for close to a year, at which time the mother was granted exclusive possession of the home. The children have been living with the father since the mother took possession of the home.

In May 2018 the mother was ordered to pay $2,241 per month in child support for the children, who were still under 18-years old at the time. She was also ordered to pay spousal support of $2,100 per month to the father. The court stated that it was a temporary order which would ultimately be settled at a trial.

Children not currently enrolled in school

Both of the children are currently over 18-years-old. The eldest, “M”, graduated from high school in June 2018. He attended college in the fall of 2019 after taking a year off, but only stayed for one semester. He has since worked on a part-time basis.

The parties’ younger child, “A” graduated from high school a year after his brother did not enroll in studies after high school and is currently not working.

However, A applied to a attend a post-secondary education 12 days after the mother served her notice of motion. M applied one week later. Both have since been admitted to their respective programs.

Mother claims material change in circumstances

To further complicate matters, the mother lost her job during COVID-19 and has not worked since. She fell behind in child support payments, but stated that she should not have been making them in the first place, since the children were no longer in school. She wanted the court to end its child support order and reinstate an order if the children return to school.

The father said the children remain his dependents notwithstanding their age and school status. He said he will not be able to provide for the children if the mother were to stop making child support payments.

The court stated that the temporary order was put in place on the premise that both children were enrolled in school. Their age and current educational situation qualifies as a material change in circumstances said the court.

The court noted, however, that it is common for children to take a “gap year” before pursuing post-secondary education. However, their decision not to enroll in school for the 2020/2021 year was their choice, but not one the mother should have to pay for. As a result, the court ordered that the mother’s child support obligations were over, but invited the father to apply again if the children end up back in school.

Contact NULaw early in your separation to understand your rights and obtain the best possible child support arrangement for your children. Our firm and its forerunners have been advising clients on child support and other family law matters since 1953. We remain committed to upholding the principles established by our distinguished predecessors: combining big firm results with a small firm relationship, and an overall commitment to always put our clients’ best interests first. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.

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