(Even More) Myths About Child Support.

AuthorDargatz, Sarah

Debunking the myths and legends that haunt family law, including those about supporting adult children and the obligations of stepparents.

We have already debunked some myths about the law of child support, but there are so many out there! Let's address a few more...

Myth: My child is now 18 so I can stop paying child support.

Myth: My child is now 22 so I can stop paying child support.

Child support obligations apply to any child under the age of majority (in Alberta, 18 years of age) if the child has not "withdrawn from their parents' charge". This means one of the child's parents still supports them. Parents may be obligated to continue to support their child 18 years or older if that child is unable to withdraw from their parents' charge or provide for themselves due to illness, disability, or some other reason such as attending post-secondary school. Sometimes this ongoing need is obvious, sometimes it is not. A judge considers the facts of each family's case to decide whether it is reasonable for a parent to continue to be obligated to pay support for an adult child. If a child is studying full-time, most judges would agree that child support should continue, at least for a first degree, diploma, or certificate.

Neither the Divorce Act nor provincial family legislation, like Alberta's Family Law Act, have an upper age limit. However, until 2018, the Family Law Act did cap the child support obligation at 22 years old. Some people still believe this is the case, but that is now a myth. Also, for administrative purposes, some government enforcement programs, like Alberta's Maintenance Enforcement Program, have policies to stop collecting child support when a child turns 22 years of age, unless a new court order specifies the support should continue.

Usually, the amount of child support a parent must pay is based strictly on that parent's income. A court has very little discretion to ignore the amounts set by the Tables in the Federal Child Support Guidelines. However, when a child is over the age of majority, a court has some discretion when deciding how much support should be paid. Section 3(2) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines gives the court discretion to order a different amount taking into consideration the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of the child as well as the financial ability of the parents to continue supporting their adult child. So, a judge may consider whether the child has a job, whether they have...

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