Separation and Divorce

Support Payments for an Adult Child


In some situations, a parent might have to support an adult child financially if the child is still not financially independent. In legal terms, an adult child is a child 18 or over.

The financial support the parent pays covers basic needs so the child can have a decent standard of living. This financial support is called child support payments, child support or an alimentary pension.

This article explains the principles that apply to requests for support payments for an adult child. The same principles are used to determine whether a parent can stop paying support for a child under 18. (Support payments do not end automatically when a child turns 18).

Who Can Ask for Support Payments for an Adult Child

Depending on the situation, these people can make the request:

  • an adult child who wants to do one of these things:
    • take legal action against one parent
    • take legal action against both parents
    • become involved in the parents’ divorce case
  • one of the parents of the adult child
    • A parent can make a legal request against the other parent for support payments for the adult child.


Helen and Louis are filing for divorce. Their son Luke, 19, lives with Helen and attends CEGEP. In the divorce application, Helen asks Louis to pay child support for Luke.

When Support Can Be Granted

If a parent is asking for child support during divorce proceedings, the adult child must be dependent on this parent. Also, the adult child must be unable to pay for her own expenses. This can happen if the child is sick, has a disability, or if there is another valid reason, for example, the child is still in school.

If the parent is asking for child support in a situation other than a divorce, such as a legal separation or separation of partners who are not married, then these conditions must be met:

  • The adult child cannot pay for her own expenses.
  • The parent asking for support for the child must pay for at least some of the child’s expenses.
  • The adult child does not object to the parent’s request for support payments on her behalf.

Other Conditions

  • The child must be doing everything possible to make ends meet, such as working part-time while going to school. This condition does not apply if the adult child has a physical or mental disability.
  • The parent being asked to pay must be in a position to help the adult child financially. A parent who can barely manage will not be required to pay support for an adult child.
  • Support coming from someone else (for example, grandparents or the government) does not cover all of the child’s expenses.

Child Support Might Not Be Given in These Cases

Child support for an adult child might not be awarded, for example, if the parent gives the child a place to stay, or if the adult child

  • is lazy,
  • wants to use the support payments to pay for something frivolous,
  • behaves unacceptably toward the parent she wants the support payments from (for example, the child is physically or verbally abusive toward the parent), or
  • lives with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

A parent can also use these arguments when asking to cancel or reduce support payments for a child who is still a minor (under 18).

Each case is different and will be carefully considered by a judge.

A lawyer can help parents figure out how these principles apply in their situation.

Calculating the Amount

One parent is applying for support payments on behalf of an adult child:

The amount will be calculated like it is for a child under 18. Either the federal tables or the Quebec child support determination form will be used, depending on the case.

The judge can decide on a different amount than the one calculated if one of the parents asks for this.

If the Quebec form applies, the judge will take the following factors into account:

  • adult child’s age
  • state of health
  • level of education
  • type of education
  • civil status (married, single)
  • where the child lives
  • level of independence
  • child’s income

If the federal tables apply, the judge will consider these factors:

  • adult child’s financial resources
  • needs
  • overall situation

The judge will also bear in mind the parents’ ability to pay the child support requested.

The adult child is the one applying for support:

The federal tables and Quebec child support determination form do not apply. But the tables and the form can be used as guidelines.

A judge will consider these factors:

  • the adult child’s real needs (However, the child will also have to pay for some expenses to the extent that this is possible.)
    • For example, what the child earns (or could earn from working) is taken into account when determining what expenses the child is expected to pay.
  • parents’ financial situation