Recent cases are stating that a child can sue a parent for retroactive child support after they have graduated from university.

In Michel v. Graydon 2020 SCC 24, the Supreme Court of Canada resolved that retroactive child support owed by a parent or guardian does not go away simply by the passage of time. The court stated at paragraph 41 that “Child support obligations arise upon a child’s birth or the separation of their parents. Retroactive awards are a recognized way to enforce such pre-existing, free-standing obligations and to recover monies owed but yet unpaid. Such a debt is a continuing obligation which does not evaporate or fade into history upon a child’s 18th or 19th birthday or their graduation from university.”

With reference to section 152 of the Family Law Act concerning changes to an existing order respecting child support, the court acknowledged that a claim for retroactive support under this part is not influenced by the status of the child at the time the application is made but rather by the circumstances of the child when support was payable. The court went on to say that this “reinforces that child support is the right of the child and the responsibility of the parents, encourages the payment of child support, acknowledges that there are many reasons why a parent may delay making an application, and recognizes how the underpayment of child support leads to hardship and contributes to the feminization of poverty. In short, allowing recipient parents to make claims for historical child support is in the best interests of children and promotes equality and access to justice for all.”

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Deborah A. Todd