Child Support Eligibility in British Columbia (2024)

When Do Offspring Become Ineligible for Child Support in British Columbia?

The duty to pay child support in British Columbia generally continues until children reach the age of 19. But there are exceptions on both sides of the age of majority.

Circumstances Ending Child Support Before 19

This happens in very limited circumstances. Those include if the youth gets married or chooses to leave home. But if they leave home because of family violence or intolerable living conditions, the parents’ child support obligations do not end.

Extending Child Support Beyond 19

There are three primary situations where parents will be expected to support their children beyond the age of majority. They are if the child:

  • is attending their first post-secondary program at a college or university;
  • continues to live at home; or
  • has a medical condition or disability that requires them to have support.

These conditions apply to any “child of the marriage.”

Definition of a ‘Child of the Marriage’

According to the Canadian federal Divorce Act, a “child of the marriage” means a child of two spouses or former spouses who:

  • is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge; or
  • is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge and obtain the necessaries of life.

If the parents were married, the Divorce Act says an adult “child of the marriage” is entitled to support in the above situations. If the parents were never married, they fall under B.C.’s Family Law Act and are entitled to support for the same reasons.

Child support for children of any age can be complicated, which is why it is a good idea to talk to a B.C. family lawyer about it.

Farden Factors for Determining Adult Child Support

When it comes to determining what level of support should be given to an adult child in post-secondary studies, courts across Canada reference a seminal 1993 B.C. Supreme Court judgment, Farden v. Farden. The eight “Farden factors” it sets out are:

  • Whether the child is enrolled in a full-time or part-time course.
  • Whether the child has applied for, or is eligible for, student loans or other financial assistance.
  • The child’s career plans and whether their educational pathway is related to their intended career; is it a reasonable and appropriate plan?
  • The ability of the child to contribute to their own support through part-time employment.
  • The age of the child.
  • The child’s past academic performance and whether they are receiving good grades in their current studies.The parents’ plans for the education of their children, particularly if those plans were made while they were together.
  • Whether the child unilaterally terminated their relationship with the parent who is expected to pay support.

Legal Responsibilities of Parents

Parents have a legal responsibility to financially support their children. It does not matter whether the parents ever lived together or if the parent ever lived with the child.

Child support, although paid to the other parent, is the legal right of the child. Parents cannot make an agreement saying that one of them does not have to pay their child support.

When one parent lives with the children most of the time, the other parent pays child support. If the children spend relatively the same amount of time with both parents, then the parent with the higher income pays child support to the other parent, usually at a reduced amount.

The child support helps provide for daily needs, including housing, food, activities, school costs and clothes.

Role of the BC Family Maintenance Agency (BCFMA)

If the payor parent is not fulfilling their support obligations, a maintenance enforcement program (MEP) may be necessary, based on either a court order or an agreement with a former partner.

Families in British Columbia can turn to the BC Family Maintenance Agency (BCFMA). This organization was originally called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), with many people still using that name.

Services offered by the BCFMA include tracking outstanding support obligations, calculating the interest due on those missing payments and imposing fines when financial support is not being provided.

BCFMA Review Process for Child Support Beyond 19

Once an order or court-filed separation agreement is enrolled with BCFMA, that agency becomes responsible under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act for monitoring and collecting support payments.

If a child support end date is not specified in an order or agreement, the BCFMA will determine whether to stop collecting child support when the individual reaches the age of 19. After noting “there can be exceptions,” the agency says that decision will be based on the answers to four questions:

  • Is the child attending school or planning to return to school?
  • Will they continue to live at home?
  • Do they have a medical condition or disability?
  • Are they unable to become self-supporting?

Many months before a child reaches the age of 19, the BCFMA will start the process to determine if support payments should continue.

The agency says the payee parent will be asked about the child’s circumstances and whether continuing financial assistance is necessary. After reviewing the information it receives a decision will be made, with both parents advised about that.

If it is decided that ongoing support is needed beyond the age of majority, the BCFMA will request updates on the child’s circumstances from the payee parent at regular intervals.

Appeals Against BCFMA Decisions

If the BCFMA determines that child support should or should not continue past the age of 19 and one parent does not agree, that will start the following process:

  • The parent dissenting with the decision will be asked to submit new or additional information about the child’s circumstances that may not have been considered.
  • That information will be given to the other parent and that parent will have a chance to respond.
  • After studying any new information, the BCFMA will decide whether to keep collecting child support payments.
  • If one parent still disagrees with that decision, they can apply to the court for a judge to review all documents and make a ruling.

Increasing Need for Extended Child Support

The number of children receiving financial support from parents beyond the age of majority (set at 18 in six provinces and 19 in four provinces and three territories) is increasing across Canada.

“While the obligation to support adult children remains a contentious and discretionary area, there are some clear trends in the case law,” states Child Support for Adult Children in Canada: When Does Childhood End?. “Social and economic changes have resulted in ‘delayed adulthood;’ young adults are living with their parents longer, as well as looking to parents for financial support for increasing periods.”

According to Statistics Canada, the portion of young adults aged 20 to 34 living in the same household with at least one parent increased from 31 per cent in 2001 to 35 per cent in 2021. The StatsCan report states that in 2021, 46 per cent of young adults who lived with their parents were aged 25 to 34, compared with 38 per cent in 2001.

Contact Mills Family Law for Assistance

Many marriages end in divorce, with parents forced to structure a parenting plan and support payments for the children. At Mills Family Law, we can help with the legal issues you will be facing, including whether support should continue past 19. We offer comprehensive family law services to help you navigate your separation and divorce. Contact us for a free consultation. 

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