Child Support: There Is No Defined Cut-off Date for When a Child Ceases to Be a Dependent

Introduction:

There is no fixed cut-off date in the law determining how many university degrees a parent must fund through child support. Whether a child ceases to be a dependent is assessed based on the facts of each individual case. 


The Ontario Superior Court of Justice decisions of Lepine vs Lepine, 2015 ONSC 7341 is very informative on this point. At one time, courts were very reluctant to extend a parent’s obligation to pay child support beyond a first post-secondary school degree, however, this is no longer the case.


Facts:

In Lepine, the Respondent (father) and Applicant (mother) were married in 1987 for 22 years and divorced in 2009. The Respondent was the primary wage earner for the family and his income was imputed at 90,000.00. 


With respect to the child Bryce, he was 24 years of age and had an undergraduate degree. He graduated from Brock University. Bryce was subsequently accepted into the Studies In Comparative Literature and the Arts Master Program at Brock University as a full-time student. Bryce was required to extend his studies on account of depression. Bryce remained in the care of his mother throughout the course of his graduate studies on and when he was required to take stress leave.


Analysis:

This case asks whether the Respondent father had a financial obligation to continue paying child support for his adult child as he pursued additional post-secondary degrees. 


The court found that Bryce was a dependent child and that the Respondent had a continued obligation to pay child support for him so long as he continues his graduate program. It was held that entitlement to child support for post-secondary education, and second and third post-secondary programs, is dependent on the facts and circumstances of each case. 


Under section 2 of the Divorce Act, course recognize jurisdiction to hold parents responsible for children over the age of 16. How long the child remains a dependent is a question of fact for the trial judge in each and every specific case. There is no specified cut-off date based on the child’s age and educational achievements. However, as a child’s age and education achievements increase, the burden of proving dependence becomes more difficult. 


The governing factor is whether the parent is still financially responsible for the children, because the children remain unable to support themselves. Dependency of the child is a key consideration that the courts take into account and this requires an analysis of each family on a case to case basis. 


Rohana Singh

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