Supporting Adult Children Through School – The Specific Factors

May 6, 2014
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

A few weeks ago, in an article titled “More on Child Support for Adult Children Pursuing Higher Education” I talked about the tricky legal question of how long parents should be financially responsible for supporting children who choose to pursue their education longer than usual, i.e. beyond an initial university degree or college accreditation.

In this context, I pointed out that for situations where an adult child is enrolled in a full-time program of education working toward that second or third degree, the courts will consider an array of relevant factors.

Although the list of those factors is not carved in stone, more than 20 years ago in a B.C. decision called Farden v. Farden, 1993 CanLII 2570 (BC SC) the court set out a fairly comprehensive list of considerations, and that list has been routinely applied as a starting-point by many family courts across Canada, ever since.

The factors are:

  • whether the child is actually enrolled in a course of studies, and whether those studies are full-time or part-time;
  • whether the child has applied for or is eligible for student loans or other financial assistance;
  • what the child’s career plans are;
  • whether / how much the child can contributing to his or her own support by working part-time;
  • the child’s age;
  • the child’s past academic performance, and specifically whether he or she is demonstrating success in the chosen course of studies;
  • what plans, if any, the parents made for the education of their child, particularly where those plans were made while the parents were living together; and
  • for mature children over 18: – whether the child has unilaterally terminated the relationship with the parent from whom they are asking support.

Once a court examines these criteria and determines that support is warranted, it will next look to the Child Support Guidelines to determine what the particular and appropriate amount should be (or whether there should be a deviation from that amount in the circumstances).

Do you have questions about your duty to support an adult child in school?  Contact us for a consultation.