Increasingly, parents are finding their kids are “leaving the nest” later and later. There can be several reasons, but often it’s because kids in their late teens/early 20s are still unfocused in their career and educational plans, and have little incentive to leave a rather cushy arrangement. Or they may be attending post-secondary education because they have nothing better to do. But even young adults who are dedicated students may find that in this economy their planned courses of higher education have not yielded them jobs that can financially sustain them. They may need second (or even) third university degrees before they can launch themselves on the path to self-sufficiency.
It’s a widespread societal phenomenon, and the individual repercussions are all the more magnified when “child” – who by this stage is often over 18 and is really an “adult” – has parents who are separated or divorced. We have written several prior Blogs about cases in which courts are asked to decide whether an adult child pursuing higher education is still entitled to child support, but the situation comes up very often; since the outcomes are very fact-driven, the more guidance to people in this scenario, the better.
In a recent Ontario case called Menegaldo v. Menegaldo, the court scrutinized closely the issue of whether an adult child is entitled to receive support, and provided a good set of guidelines. First of all, it emphasized that the analysis is fact-driven in every case, and the overriding legislative test is whether the adult child’s education plan is reasonable in terms of the child’s abilities, the plans and expectations of the parents in regard to the child’s post-secondary education, and the needs and means of both the child and the parents.
But with that background in place, the court added that the following factors and questions are also relevant:
• How old is the “child”?
• What are his or her qualifications, experience, aptitude, and abilities?
• What is his or her level of maturity, commitment and responsibility?
• Is the child actually enrolled in a course of studies? Full- or part-time?
• Has the child applied for student loans or financial assistance? Has he or she received any scholarships or bursaries? If so, how much?
• How well can the child contribute to his or her support through part-time employment?
• Is the child’s education and career plan reasonable and appropriate? Or are they in school because they have nothing better to do?
• Is the child succeeding in their chosen course of studies?
• What are / were the parents’ plans for the child’s education, particularly when the family was intact?
• What are the financial means of the parents and the child? What are their respective financial needs?
• How willing is the child to remain accountable to the parents for post-secondary education plans and progress?
(Note that it is not necessary to establish all of these factors exist; they are just part of the courts’ considerations.)
The question of whether an adult child is still entitled to support is a complex one, but in my law practice it often and shows little sign of abating in frequency. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Menegaldo v. Menegaldo, 2012 ONSC 2915
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