December 2013

Child support does not necessarily stop at the age of majority

By Eloïse Pion Lawyer

At the age of 18, your child can vote, purchase alcohol and go to bars. But your son or daughter could still remain your dependent for a few more years!

When it comes to support, the Civil Code of Québec does not differentiate between minor and full age children (art. 585 and 587.1). The Divorce Act refers to a child "under the age of majority" and one "at or over the age of majority and who, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, is unable to withdraw from the parent's charge or obtain the necessaries of life" (article 2).

In fact, illness, disability, the pursuit of postsecondary studies or the completion of secondary studies are among the reasons why a child at or over the age of majority may remain dependent. Still, an adult child in school must demonstrate the seriousness of his or her studies. Part-time studies must constitute a transitional phase or the adult child may, eventually, no longer be considered a dependent.

In addition, the obligation to support the child implies that the adult child must contribute to his or her own needs to the best of his or her capabilities. An adult child must work part-time during the academic term or full-time during the summer. Otherwise, the courts may impute an income to reduce the support. The courts have also recognized that an adult child must apply for loans and bursaries and use any funds invested in an education savings account.

Of course, support for an adult child depends on the needs and means of the parents and child. A child of or over the age of majority who earns a significant income from working part-time while undertaking full-time college or university studies may be considered independent by the courts. In fact, the courts generally consider one third of the adult child's income to reduce the parents' basic contributions according to the scale.

An adult child will stop being dependent after completing a first bachelor's degree in a reasonable time or any other lesser degree that marks the end of his or her studies. In certain cases, an adult child may remain dependent until the completion of a master's or PhD when, for example, the parents have a similar level of education and the means to pay for tuition and the adult child is serious and successful or studying in a field in which a graduate degree is required to practice (e.g. psychology).

Once an adult child has completed his or her studies and enters the workforce, the courts will sometimes allow him or her a few months to find employment before stopping the support.

So it may only be several years after your son or daughter turns 18 that he or she will legally stand on his or her own two feet!