child attending post-secondary

As explained in a previous article, a child who has reached the age of majority may still be entitled to child support, if they are unable to withdraw from the charge of their parents or otherwise obtain the necessaries of life.


If the child is entitled to support, they might have an obligation to contribute towards the costs of their own education.  Section 3(2) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines applies to children who are 19 or older.  It states that the amount of child support can either the the amount determined as if the child is under 19 or, if that would be “inappropriate”, the amount that a judge decides is appropriate, after considering “the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the child.”  As you can see, the wording of section 3(2)(b) specifically refers to the “means” of the child, which in that context refers to the child’s wealth or resources.


How much a child has to rely on their own resources is decided on a case-by-case basis.  A judge will consider facts such as the child’s age, the demands of their program, whether they are working during the year, whether the child has savings that they can draw upon, and the income of the child’s parents.  There are no hard and fast rules about how much a child must contribute to their own education.  Judges take a flexible and pragmatic approach on this issue and try to determine what is reasonable for the family.  For guidance on this issue, it is generally best to talk to an experienced family lawyer who can, based on their knowledge of previously decided cases, can give you an opinion as to how much your child should contribute.


How much does the child have to work, and are they allowed to keep some spending money?


Although there are no hard and fast rules, a child generally does not need to work while taking a full course load, but a child should work during semesters off (such as during the summer).  In addition, judges do not usually expect a child to save every penny they make.  They are allowed to spend some of their money and enjoy some of the fruits of their labour.


Is the child obligated to take out student loans to contribute to the costs of their education?


Student loans are generally not seen as a substitute for parents contributing to a child’s education.  From the perspective of the courts, student loans just postpone the cost of education to a later date, and the child is the one responsible for repaying his or her student loans.  If parents can afford to contribute to the child’s education, then the child should not have to go deep into debt to pursue post-secondary education.