Parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. The legal obligation to contribute to the cost of raising a child continues after parents separate. But when does it end? Let’s look at how long child support must be paid.
How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support?
BC’s Family Law Act and Canada’s Divorce Act are the laws that apply to payment of child support in our province. Child support must be paid for as long as a person is a “child” as defined in those laws. The Divorce Act and the Family Law Act use slightly different language in defining who is a “child,” but the general rule is this: you must pay child support until the child reaches the age of majority. In BC, the age of majority is 19.
Do I Have to Pay Child Support for a Child over the Age of Majority?
In some cases, a child may be entitled to support after the age of 19. Once the age of majority has been reached, the parent seeking payment of support for that child must prove he or she remains a child as defined by the applicable support laws (Divorce Act and the Family Law Act). Those laws state that a person over the age of 19 remains a child for the purpose of receiving support if they are unable to obtain the necessaries of life or withdraw from the charge of their parents because of illness, disability or other reason.
In simpler terms, child support can continue to be due after the child turns 19 if the child remains dependent. Common reasons why a child 19 and over might be dependent include:
the child is a full-time student in college or university;
the child is unable to find work or become self-supporting, and/or
the child is disabled or suffering from a serious medical condition that prevents them from looking for work or going to school.
If an adult child is still living at home but is not ill, disabled, or under the effect of another reason by which he or she is unable to withdraw from parental charge or to obtain the necessaries of life, then that adult child is no longer a child entitled to support.
How Much Child Support Do I Have to Pay for a Child over 19?
If your adult child continues to live at home and remains dependent, the amount of child support to be paid is usually the amount calculated using the Child Support Guidelines or another amount the court determines in their discretion is appropriate. Support is paid to the parent the child lives with for most of the time (or in shared parenting situations, to the parent who earns less), based on the paying parent’s income.
However, if your adult child lives away from home while getting their post-secondary education, the situation is different. Whether you need to support them and how much support you will have to pay depends on factors such as your child’s age, whether their studies are full-time or part-time, their educational goals/past academic performance, the availability of student loans or other financial assistance, and whether your child can work part-time to contribute to their own support.
Can Child Support End Before My Child Turns 19?
There are limited circumstances that could result in you not having to pay support for a child who is under 19 years old. For example, under the BC Family Law Act, each parent has a duty to provide support for the child unless the child:
is a spouse (e.g. the child gets married before turning 19); or
has voluntarily withdrawn from their parents’ charge (e.g. the child chooses to leave their parents’ home), except if the child withdrew because of family violence or intolerable living conditions.
In some cases, child support could also end before the age of majority if there is an end date specified in a court order or agreement. And of course, regardless of the child’s age, a significant decrease in your income or change in the child’s living arrangements can also have an impact on child support obligations. In those situations, you would not be saying that the obligation to support your child has “ended” but rather that the amount you should pay going forward, if any, must be changed to reflect the changed circumstances. If you and your former partner are not able to agree on a new amount, a family lawyer can assist; it may be necessary to go to court to have the amount of child support varied.
Questions about How Long You Have to Pay Child Support?
If you need advice from a BC family lawyer with respect to child support rights and obligations given your specific circumstances, contact Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation. We deal with all aspects of child support. Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation in Langley and Coquitlam can answer your questions and help determine how best to approach your child support issues. You can reach Valerie at 604-526-3333 or through our contact form.