Do Children Have a Direct Right of Support?
Readers of this blog will be familiar with one of the basic principles of Ontario Family Law which dictates that every child is legally entitled to financial support from their parents. Practically speaking, in situations involving separated or divorced parents this usually plays out with the child going to live with one of the parents, and the other parent being required to contribute a stipulated amount towards the costs of raising the child and providing for his or her needs. The obligation to support the child generally continues until he or she is age 18 or no longer dependent.
But does a child have the right of support from both parents at the same time? The answer is: “maybe”.
This was the question in a recent case called Miller v. Mitchell, 2013 CarswellOnt 15556 (Ont. S.C.J.). The child, aged 23, had returned to school full-time after dropping out for a while. Since his university expenses amounted to about $18,000, he asked for support from both his parents directly, even though it could be argued that he had withdrawn from their charge. The court confirmed that in these particular circumstances the child had a direct right to support from both his parents despite being over 18. The court ordered support accordingly – after making an adjustment to account for the fact that the child could contribute one-third of the costs by working full-time in the summer and part-time during the school year. In response to the parents’ objection that the child had become uncooperative and had even cut off contact with them prior to applying for support, the court added that, “child support is not payment for being a dutiful, communicative son or daughter.”
Although the case does not stand for the principle that every child over 18 can apply for direct support, in this particular case the court allowed it. Each case will turn on its own particular facts.
Do you have questions about the nature of your support obligations to your children? Contact us for a free consultation.