In many divorce cases involving a minor child, the judge renders a decision on the issues of both custody and support and typically orders that the non-custodial parent pay child support to the custodial parent for the child until a termination date. In Canada, child support payments end once the child is no longer deemed a “dependent” under the law.
For most situations, a child will be entitled to child support until 18 years of age. However, in many cases the “until-18 rule” will not apply and the child may be entitled to support beyond the “age of majority”. For instance, a child over 18 years of age is still entitled to child support if the child is a full-time student in school, even if the child has a part-time job while attending school. The child support obligations do not end because the law assumes that full-time students are still dependents and are unable to support themselves. Along with child support, the non-custodial parent may also have an obligation to contribute to the child’s special expenses, which would include the costs associated with attending school, such as tuition.
Child support is governed by federal law and does not change from province to province, although the amounts may differ based on the cost of living for the area. In cases when the child support termination date is not specified in the support order, the support payments may continue until the child has obtained a post-secondary degree or as long as the child is in school full-time. It is also not unheard of, albeit rare, for child support to be paid even while the child completes further schooling, including a graduate degree, particularly if the educational program is required in order for the child to pursue his or her desired occupation.
To terminate the payor’s child support obligations, the payor must file a motion to change a final order with the court and have the court issue a new order ending the support payments. For payments enforced by the Family Responsibility Office, the payor can contact the government agency to inform the office of the change in circumstances and obtain consent from the support recipient to terminate the payments.