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Posted on October 24th 2006 in Legal Articles

Should Adult Children Contribute Financially to Their Studies?

Should Adult Children Contribute Financially to Their Studies?

In my view, the amount of child support that a parent is ordered to pay should be determined, as a general rule, on the expectation that a child with means, in this case independent assets, will contribute something from those means towards his or her post-secondary school education.
Mr. Justice Juriansz
Lewi v. Lewi C43423

The Facts
The Lewis, who were divorced, had two sons. At the time this issue came before the Court of Appeal the sons were 20 and 18.

The father earned $182,000 a year. The mother’s only income was the $3,500 a month she received in spousal support and the $2,094 she received in child support. Each son had investments worth more than $41,000 given to them by their grandfather. Although the money could be used for their education, it was not specifically designated for that purpose.

The older son lived with his mother while he attended university. His annual expenses for school were approximately $6,100. The younger son had decided to go away to university. He expected to need $17,000 a year.

The mother applied to have the father contribute additional funds toward their schooling. He took the position that since both children had substantial funds of their own, they should have to use those funds to pay for their post-secondary education before any parental contribution was ordered.

The Child Support Guidelines
As we explained in the 2006 spring edition of Legal Issues, child support is set out in a series of tables and is generally based on the payor’s income and the number of minor children. If a child is over 18 and is in school he or she is usually still entitled to child support.

There are instances when the court will consider the above approach to be inappropriate. In those cases the court will determine an appropriate amount for support having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child as well as the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the support of the child.

In addition to the guideline amount, parents may also be required to pay special or extraordinary expenses, for instance the cost of post-secondary education.

The Court of Appeal
The Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that a child with means must contribute something from those means toward his or her post-secondary education. In determining the amount of the contribution the court suggested the following factors be considered.
o The amount of the children’s anticipated post-secondary expenses
o The children’s assets
o The means of the parents
o The source of the children’s funds
o The parents’ intentions regarding post-secondary expenses before separation.

In this particular case, the court recognized that while the father earned a significant income, “. . .his financial ability to contribute, and the reasonableness of the entire expense in relation to the parents’ and the children’s means has been affected.”

The court concluded that although the older son was over 18, the current amount of child support was sufficient to address his living expenses. With respect to his school-related expenses the older son was to be responsible for the full amount.

Since the younger son would be living away from home eight months out of the year, the court had to revisit the amount of child support that should be payable for him. The Court decided that the father should pay support for the younger son only during the four months he would be living at home. He and his parents would share the cost of his living and school expenses, with the son being responsible for half the amount.

Concerning the greater contribution from the younger son, the Court said, “Yet Brandon, though a child of the marriage for the purposes of the Divorce Act, is an adult who is responsible for the choices he has made. He has chosen to go to university out of town at much greater cost. I would order an amount of child support for him that expects a commensurately greater contribution from him, while still leaving him with assets on graduation that are roughly comparable to those Darren will be left with.”

If you have questions about the amount of child support you are paying or receiving, please contact one of our family law lawyers: Nicola Savin, Jacqueline Peters or Debbie Jorgensen.