If a child is over the age of majority and is unable to be independent because of a disability the parents’ obligation to support the child may continue for the life of a child.
If the child receives income from the government as a result of their disability that income is taken into account when determining how much the parents are required to pay but it does not necessarily absolve the parents of this obligation to support their child.
If the child is unable to be independent because they are attending school the court will take into account several factors when determining the appropriate amount of child maintenance payable. These factors include:
- whether the child is studying on a part-time or full-time basis;
- whether the child has applied for, or is eligible for, student loans or other financial assistance;
- whether the child’s career plans are reasonable and appropriate;
- the child’s ability to contribute to his/her own support through part-time employment;
- the child’s age;
- the child’s past academic performance and whether the child is demonstrating success in the chosen course of studies;
- the parents’ plans for the education of their children, particularly where those plans were made during cohabitation; and
- in the case of a mature child who has reached the age of majority, whether the child has unilaterally terminated the relationship with the parent from whom support is sought.
(Farden v. Farden, 1993)
There may be other factors which are relevant. My experience has been that a parent can expect to pay child maintenance until the child is approximately 23 years old or until they have completed their first degree of post-secondary education. There are however exceptions to this especially if the parents had planned that the child would pursue more than one degree while they were married.
The amount of child maintenance payable is discretionary and takes into account the child’s expenses and any income the child can earn.
An interesting approach was considered reasonable by the BC Court of Appeal in Watts v. Willie (BCCA) 2004:
“Each year, on or before August 1st, Christopher Willie will submit a budget to both parties outlining the anticipated expenses, awards received, and his contribution from savings for the following school year. This budget will be used to establish the net Special and Extraordinary expenses for the following school year. Richard and Kathleen will pay their proportionate share of the net Special and Extraordinary expenses beginning September 1 of that year.”