Paying for Post-Secondary Education – How Far Must Parents Go?

January 16, 2013
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

In Ontario, the Family Law Act imposes an obligation on all parents to fund their child’s education as long as they are minors and “enrolled in a full-time program of education.” This obligation extends to parents who are separated or divorced, in which case the duty to fund a child’s education will be among the many financial responsibilities that are allocated between the former couple.

However, in the modern era that values advanced post-secondary education and even multiple degrees, the question of how long parents must provide such financial support can be a complex one.

For one thing, the law does not impose a strict cut-off in terms of age:  under the Child Support Guidelines (which mandates the amount of support payable by separated parents), the term “child” simply means a “a child of the marriage”; the definition under the federal Divorce Act is similarly imprecise.   This means that an adult child – well over the age of 18 – can still technically qualify as a “child of the marriage” who is entitled to receive support.

Next, the amount of support will vary from case to case, and will generally be governed by the federal Child Support Guidelines, which allows a court to impose support amounts that include coverage for post-secondary education and which are in-line with the child’s best interests and various other factors (such as the parents’ financial circumstances, the child’s age, and his or her academic performance and educational/career aspirations, among other things).

Finally, there is no specific cut-off as to how many post-secondary degrees a parent can be obliged to pay for, although once again the court will consider numerous factors including the parents’ financial situation, and the reasonableness of the adult child’s educational plan involving a second or subsequent degree.

Shulman & Partners LLP is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation in connection with parental rights and obligations. Contact us to request a consultation.