Most people would reasonably think that child support obligations end when a child of a marriage turns 18 and enters adulthood. However, there are situations where a parent might have to continue paying child support past that date. One example could be if the child remains a dependent due to a disability. Another example is when a child is pursuing post-secondary education. However, it’s common for many children to take “gap years” in between high school and university or college. What happens to child support in those cases? A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice sheds some light on this.
Children take gap year after finishing high school
The parties involved were married in July 2000 and separated in the early summer of 2017. They had two children while they were together who have both turned 18, graduating in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Following their separation, the mother began paying the father child support in the amount of $2,241 per month.
Following high school, their oldest son took a year off before enrolling in a college program. However, he did not complete the program or return the following year. During this time he has worked a series of jobs but has been accepted to school again for the Fall of 2021. His younger brother graduated high school in 2019 and worked part-time until the COVID-19 outbreak. Like his brother, he has been accepted to a post-secondary program starting in the Fall of 2021.
The mother has asked the court to do away with her child support obligations since the children are adults and not in school. She had previously missed child support payments, and also asked the court to not enforce those missed payments since the children were not in school at that time, either. The father has asked that the mother not be allowed to make such an application since she has defied a court order to make child support payments.
Are the children still entitled to receive child support?
The court began its analysis stating that child support obligations can be amended in the event of a “material change of circumstances.” Examples of this were provided by the court, stating, “With respect to child support, this is not a high bar. Changes in the incomes of the parents, the academic circumstances of the children, the needs of the children or their ability to contribute to their own support will constitute a change in circumstances within the meaning of the Act and the Guidelines”
In this case, the court found that while the children could eventually return to school and once again become “children of the marriage,” they are not in school at this time and are capable of working. As a result, the court found that the mother was not obligated to pay child support while they weren’t in school, and issued an order eliminating the amount she didn’t pay during that time. However, if the children do return to school as planned, the father would be able to ask the court to once again put child support in place.
To speak with an experienced Windsor family lawyer about child custody or support, call 519.973.1500, get started now or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, and also by lawyers, counsellors and other professionals.