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When Does Child Support End in British Columbia?


What age do you stop paying child support in British Columbia, Canada? Many people assume that child support ends when a child reaches the age of majority. While that is generally true, there are several situations where child support obligations continue for children over the age of majority. 

Child support for children over the age of majority can be complicated. The family law lawyers at Onyx Law Group want to demystify the end of child support in BC. Read on for information about the legal obligation to provide support and when that obligation ends.

Importance of Child Support

Importance of Child Support

Children have a legal right to financial support from both parents. Separation or divorce does not change that ongoing support obligation. “Child support” is the money that one parent pays to another to support their children financially after a separation or divorce. In BC, child support is calculated using the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

Who is a “child” for support purposes?  

Both the federal Divorce Act and BC’s Family Law Act address how long a parent has to pay child support and in what amount. Each law defines a “child” for support purposes in a slightly different way. 

Divorce Act

Under the Divorce Act, a “child of the marriage” is a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time:

(a) Is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or 

(b) Is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from        their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.

In British Columbia, a person reaches the age of majority on becoming 19 years of age (see the Age of Majority Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.7). The age of majority differs from province to province. For example, in Alberta age of majority is 18.

Family Law Act

Under the Family Law Act, “child” includes a person who is 19 years of age or older and unable, because of illness, disability or another reason, to obtain the necessaries of life or withdraw from the charge of his or her parents or guardians.

When Does Child Support End in BC?

When Does Child Support End in BC?

The law that applies in your situation depends on the circumstances, such as whether you were legally married to your child’s other parent. However, regardless of whether the Family Law Act or Divorce Act applies, the basic rule in British Columbia is that children are entitled to support from both parents if they are: 

  • Under the age of 19; or
  • Over the age of 19, but can’t take care of themselves financially because of illness, disability, or another reason/cause. 

To put it another way, the requirement to financially support your child to age 19 is the minimum, not the maximum.  

Exceptions to the general rule

Exceptions to the general rule

First off, it’s worth noting here that child support can end in BC before a child turns 19, but only in very rare circumstances. If a child under the age of 19 gets married or chooses to live with neither parent, the duty to pay child support may end. That is not true if the child leaves home because of family violence or intolerable living conditions. 

Now, let’s have a look at exceptions to the rule that can extend child support obligations past the age of majority. An adult child who is unable to leave home and support themselves due to illness or disability is likely entitled to support. For example, if an adult child has a disability that affects their ability to look for work or attend post-secondary education, the parent with whom the child lives can claim for ongoing support. A child with a disability may qualify for government disability support benefits, which would be taken into account when deciding how much child support should be paid.

What about schooling? A common question is “Do I have to pay child support when my child goes to university?” Canada and BC courts have interpreted “other cause” and “another reason” in the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act as including a child’s attendance at a post-secondary institution.  

However, that doesn’t mean a 19+ university or college student automatically qualifies for ongoing child support payments. The onus is on the parent claiming child support to prove that the adult child is still a “child of the marriage” or “child” as defined in the law. 

How does the court decide if support should continue during post-secondary studies?

How does the court decide if support should continue during post-secondary studies?

To determine whether an adult child enrolled in post-secondary studies is entitled to continued support from their parents, the court must consider whether the child’s educational pursuits are reasonable, taking into account their particular academic, financial, and family circumstances. There are eight factors in particular that the court will consider, developed by the court in a BC family law case called Farden v. Farden:

  • Whether the child is in fact enrolled in a course of studies and whether it’s on a full-time or part-time basis.
  • Whether the child has applied for, or is eligible for, student loans or other financial assistance.
  • The child’s career plans, i.e., whether the child is pursuing educational goals that are related to their intended career; is it a reasonable and appropriate plan?
  • The ability of the child to contribute to his or her own support through part-time employment.
  • The age of the child.
  • The child’s past academic performance, and whether the child is demonstrating success in their current studies.
  • The parents’ plans for the education of their child(ren), particularly where those plans were made during cohabitation or marriage.
  • Whether the child has unilaterally terminated his or her relationship with the parent from whom support is sought.

How much support is paid for a child over the age of majority?

How much support is paid for a child over the age of majority?

If the court finds that an adult child is still a “child” or a “child of the marriage” for support purposes, the court must then determine the amount of support to be paid. Section 3(2) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines governs the amount of child support for a child over the age of 19:

 3 (2) Unless otherwise provided under these Guidelines, where a child to whom a child support order relates is the age of majority or over, the amount of the child support order is

 (a) the amount determined by applying these Guidelines as if the child were under the age of majority; or

 (b) if the court considers that approach to be inappropriate, the amount that it considers appropriate, having regard to 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.

What that means is that the court can order the Table amount, or, under Section 3(2)(b), the court can exercise its discretion to order child support in a lesser amount. Whether the child is still living at home while attending school is a significant factor here. 

Bear in mind that the court can also order proportionate sharing of a child’s post-secondary education expenses in addition to basic child support. Expenses include reasonable costs for tuition, textbooks, accommodation, and food. An adult child has an obligation to contribute towards their own expenses, so the court will deduct any contribution from the child before ordering sharing of the expenses in proportion to the parents’ incomes. 

Need advice on continuing or ending child support in BC? 

The issue of child support for a child over the age of majority can be complicated and unpredictable. If you are seeking to apply for child support for your adult child or want to know how to go about officially ending child support payments in BC, we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer. 

Reach out to Onyx Law Group’s team of skilled family lawyers at (604) 200-6712. We can review your case and advise you on your child’s rights to financial support and your options.

Have questions about a topic?

Onyx Law Group represents clients in family law, estate and trust litigation, estate planning and probate matters. Consult with our experienced team at 
(604) 900-2538

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