Separation and Divorce

Child Support for an Adult Child Still in School


In some cases, parents must pay child support to financially help adult children while they are still in school.

Sometimes a judge becomes involved in situations like these:

  • An adult child asks for support from one or both parents for the time it takes to complete her education, but the parent or parents do not want to pay.
  • A parent has been paying child support for a child, but wants to stop paying now that the child is 18. (At 18, children become adults in the eyes of the law.) However, the child’s other parent claims that the child is not financially independent, and should continue to get support payments until he completes his education.

Support Payments for Adult Children Still in School: Factors Considered

Aside from the general factors judges consider in all requests for support payments for adult children, the following criteria are especially important when the adult child is still in school:

  • child’s age
  • child’s state of health
  • grades
  • type of education the child wants
  • education to date
  • how seriously the child is treating the wish to continue studying
  • efforts child is making to cover part of the expenses
  • child’s income and parents’ income
  • child’s expenses
  • parents’ level of education (For example, if the parents have a university education, it is normal that they would want their children to have the same opportunity.)

Real Case: Support Payments Awarded

The father of an adult child was paying child support to the mother to cover their son’s needs. He was 22 years old and studying software engineering. He moved to Montreal and registered for sociology courses at university. His father wanted to cancel the support payments.

The judge refused the father’s request. The father had to continue to make support payments to the mother to cover the son’s expenses. However, the judge held that the support payments should stop once the child completed his degree in software engineering. The father was not required to finance a second degree (in sociology), which was the child’s personal choice.

Real Case: Parent Allowed to Stop Support Payments

The adult child used to have a job and was taking correspondence courses. Her grades were not great, but she managed to complete her courses. Then she registered in a silk-screen printing program. She realized early on that she was allergic to the products used in the printing and that she would never be able to work in the field. Even so, she continued the courses. She did not work during her school vacation, preferring to spend time with her boyfriend. Also, she loved to travel and paid for her trips from her savings.

Her father went to court to cancel the support payments. The mother did not agree that he should stop paying. She said that the daughter, 22, wanted to study engineering. She believed that the father should help the daughter pay for her engineering degree.

The judge cancelled the support payments. He explained that the father had already paid for education that turned out to be a waste of time. The judge also questioned the seriousness of the child’s plans, which were too expensive given her father’s financial situation. Also, the adult child did not provide any evidence of her needs. She spent her money travelling and did not have a job.

Program Changes, Course Withdrawals and Failures

An adult child who changes programs, withdraws from certain courses or fails others can still receive support payments from her parents. However, the child cannot just waste time in school.

The court will carefully examine the child’s academic history. Even if judges tend to give a chance to adult children who have had academic difficulties in the past, these same judges might not force a parent to pay support for a child who

  • cannot decide on a program,
  • often withdraws from courses without a good reason, or
  • fails courses several times.

To make sure the child is serious and stays motivated, judges sometimes

  • limit support payments to the expected length of the program, or
  • impose requirements on the child.

“The Court orders the adult child, Benjamin, to provide to his father, the defendant, proof of registration in the Faculty of Medicine, as well as a copy of his class schedule and all student transcripts.”