Supporting your child, even after a separation or divorce, is not only a moral but also a legal responsibility in Alberta. Child support is the child’s right and helps ensure children’s financial needs are met, regardless of the living arrangements or the parents’ relationship. However, payor parents (the parent who does not have primary care of the child) might wonder at what point their support obligations end.

This blog explores the legal framework outlining a payor parent’s child support obligations and debunks common myths about child support payments.

The Age of Majority: A General Guideline

In Alberta, the majority of the population is 18 years old. This is generally considered the benchmark for the cessation of child support obligations under the federal Divorce Act and the provincial Family Law Act (also referred to as the “FLA“). The Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines“) determine the quantum and duration of child support that should be ordered under federal or provincial law. The Family Law Act provides that “every decision regarding the child must be made for the best interest of the child.” However, this general age guideline is not applicable in all circumstances, so payor parents must understand how the law applies to their circumstances, as they may be required to continue paying child support after their child’s 18th birthday.

When a court order requires a parent to pay child support, this order includes the monthly base child support in addition to extraordinary expenses, health-related expenses, and any extra expenses the court determines the other parent pays.

Exceptions to the Rule

While 18 is the general guideline for signalling the end of child support payments, child support obligations in Alberta might continue beyond that age under specific circumstances outlined in the applicable legislation.

Post-Secondary Education

If your child is enrolled as a full-time student in a post-secondary program (i.e. university, college, or trade school) and continues to be financially dependent on the parents, your child support obligations might continue up to the age of 22. The “Farden factors” outlined in the 1993 case of Farden v. Farden are often cited by the courts when determining whether a parent must pay post-secondary legal costs in accordance with the Guidelines.

Financial Independence

If your child has a disability that prevents them from achieving financial independence, child support obligations may continue beyond 18. These matters are determined on a case-by-case basis, and a court will consider the severity of the disability, the child’s earning capacity, and the cost of ongoing care before making an order regarding ongoing support.

The Importance of Obtaining Legal Guidance on Support Obligations

While the general guidelines and exceptions offer some clarity, navigating child support can be complex. Parents should consult a trusted family lawyer who can explain how the legal framework surrounding child support obligations applies to their circumstances. They can advise on your situation and help you identify your options and responsibilities.

In some cases, parents may agree to continue child support beyond the age of majority. In such cases, ensuring you have a clearly drafted and enforceable written agreement to mitigate future disputes is crucial. If you are a payor parent seeking to apply to the court for a variation order due to a change in your circumstances, it is important to seek legal advice to ensure that your application is properly completed and filed with supporting evidence.

Legal Considerations Regarding Child Support Termination

Terminating child support obligations requires extensive legal guidance, particularly in cases where the child is an adult and may still be eligible for support. There are several key factors to consider when seeking to terminate your child support responsibilities, such as:

  • The child’s age;
  • Financial circumstances of the parents; and
  • The child’s status (for instance, a child may still be considered a child of the marriage for child support purposes if they are a full-time post-secondary student or and unable to become financially self-sufficient due to disability).

Child Support Obligations May be Adjusted

In Alberta, if a payor parent loses their job or experiences a substantial decrease in their income, they may apply to the court to adjust their support payments. A parent may also request a review or adjustment to a child support order by applying with the court detailing the changes necessitating a change.

Clarity and Communication Helps Ensure a Smooth Transition

Although the age of majority is a general benchmark for when a payor parent’s child support obligations may end, it is not an absolute rule and support obligations may continue beyond 18. Moreover, because child support is the right of the child, a parent’s re-marriage will not terminate these obligations. Sometimes, a parent may ask a court to vary an existing order to accommodate a significant change in their income or the child’s needs.

Understanding when child support obligations end is just one aspect of navigating this complex family law issue. Open communication and a commitment to supporting your child’s well-being are essential throughout this process. Consulting with an experienced family lawyer can ensure your rights and responsibilities are understood, promoting a smooth transition for all parties involved.

Contact Getz Collins and Associates for Trusted Legal Advice on Child Support Matters

The experienced family lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates understand that family law disputes can involve highly emotional and contentious issues, especially when children are involved. From our Calgary and Strathmore offices, our family law team offers comprehensive family law services to help spouses proactively address and resolve issues.

Getz Collins and Associates works with clients across Alberta in communities such as Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, Hussar, and surrounding areas. To learn how we can assist you with your child support matter, contact us online or call us at (587) 391-5600.