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At What Age Do You Stop Paying for Child Support in Canada?

Everybody’s child support situation is a little different. Here, we present you with different scenarios that could impact when your child support responsibilities will terminate.

You will need to refer to your divorce decree to find out what is true in your specific case, or you will need to consult with your family law attorney.

These are also all different previsions that can be made in a divorce settlement as part of a child support negotiation. 


When the Child Reaches the Age of Majority

Most parents only have a legal obligation to pay child support until their child turns 18. In some provinces, such as British Columbia, the obligation won’t end until the child turns 19. 

There are some exceptions. Your child stops being a dependent if they marry. In addition, if they are over 16 years old and leave home, they are considered to have “voluntarily withdrawn from parental control.” You can’t force them to leave, but if they leave on their own then you may be able to stop child support payments. After all, at that point neither you nor your ex will be able to use that money on your child’s behalf.


Your Adult Child Moves in With You

It is certainly more than common for adult children to live with parents in our increasingly turbulent financial climate.

If your child is living with you full-time and you are the paying parent then you will certainly have an excellent case for terminating child support payments. 

When the Child is in College

A child who is enrolled full-time may receive child support from parents if they are enrolled in a career-seeking program. This may be just for their first year in college or it may be treated as a special expense. Child support generally continues so long as your child is a dependent, but college is something of a gray area. 

Arrangements are handled on a case-by-case basis. Some parents will not have to pay for the entire postsecondary education, while others will be required to do just that. 

The judge considers what arrangements would have been made for the child’s post-secondary education had the parents stayed together, what the child can reasonably be expected to contribute to their own education, and how often the child will be back at home and in need of support. Many parents continue providing support until the child is 22. 


When the Child is Disabled

If your child is too severely disabled to become independent then you might end up paying child support a lot longer. 

If the child is physically unable to become independent then you might well be required to pay child support the rest of your life. It’s not the child’s fault they were disabled, and while this presents a considerable burden on both parents it’s one that is as unavoidable as it is unfortunate. 


When You Owe Back Child Support

If you owe back child support you owe that support until it is paid off in full. The back child support is a debt, and your child’s age does not matter. You will be required to pay it and will be subject to your province’s enforcement methods until you are caught up in full. 


When You Suffer a Reduction in Income

If you lose your job, suffer a disability, change jobs, or encounter some other change in circumstance you will nevertheless still carry a child support obligation. You will need to request a child support modification from the court.

In general, modifications are routine unless the court deems that your circumstances have changed solely because you are trying to dodge your child support payments. 


Ending Child Support 

You will need to reach out to your province’s enforcement unit to inform them that your child is now old enough to stop receiving support. They will refer back to your court order. If they agree, they will stop collecting support from you. In general it is a good idea to register your court order or separation agreement with the Family Responsibility Office as they will stop payments automatically. 

It is sometimes a good idea to remind them in advance that the date the payments are meant to stop is approaching to make the process as smooth as possible. If there is no end date on your court order you and your partner will ave to agree to end support. You’ll have to fill out an Application to Discontinue Enforcement of Ongoing Support. The FRO will consult with your partner to ensure that they agree. If your partner does not respond, they may stop enforcing payments or lower your child support amount, at their discretion. Your spouse can come back later to tell the FRO that payments should not have ended in the event that they do not agree. If that happens, you will have to go back to court and get a judge to sign off on terminating your child support obligation. 

If you’ve encountered a special circumstances such as your child’s marriage or a voluntary withdrawal then you’ll have to provide proof that your child has passed out of your control. You may also have to go back to court to obtain a court order to stop child support. Follow the instructions of your local office, or consult with your family lawyer. 

You should continue making payments until you get a letter from your Family Responsibility Office telling you that you may stop. 


Get Help With Child Support

Remember, child support is your child’s right. You are expected to pay child support as outlined in your divorce decree.

We can help you negotiate a fair child support arrangement during the divorce process, and can help you obtain favorable arrangements if your case goes to trial. We can also help you when it is time to modify child support. 

We’ve helped thousands of parents just like you navigate the complex laws governing child support. We help clients in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We’re known for being some of Canada’s savviest negotiators and toughest litigators. 

Contact Merchant Law to get started today. We’re ready to help.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.