Can You Pay Support to a Child Directly after They Reach 18?
In a recent Blog, we pointed out that a support-paying parent is not entitled to unilaterally choose to substitute gifts or tangible items in place of his or her monetary child support obligation. A related question is whether a parent can choose to pay support to an older child directly, for example where the child is over 18 but in the circumstances is still entitled to support.
Once again, the answer is generally “No”.
Unless a court specifically orders otherwise – and regardless of whether the child is of the age of majority – a parent is not entitled to innovate in this manner and purport to pay financial support directly to the child; it must be paid to the other parent. For one thing, this avoids predictable disputes over whether and how much the child has actually received and how it was spent; the money is better put into the hands of the other parent where it can be controlled and accounted for.
With that said, a paying parent might ask for a court order allowing for such an arrangement, but it will likely be granted only if there is a good reason to do so. For example, in a Saskatchewan case called Bourque v. Janzen, the parents had a highly acrimonious split, and the mother allowed more than $60,000 in child support that had been paid into court to languish there, while she lived in near poverty with their six children. (The mother had thwarted the father’s attempts at access, and apparently didn’t want to capitulate on the support until that other issue was resolved).
Since the mother refused to accept and use the money for the children’s benefit, the father applied to the court to allow for it to be paid to the children directly, if for nothing else because they deserved the money for the chores they performed at the family farm. He also claimed that the mother, who was self-represented, would squander the child support money on litigation if it was paid directly to her. (She had filed voluminous materials in court, alleging political persecution and Satanism, among other things).
Faced with this situation (which it conceded was unusual) the court nonetheless found no reason to order that the child support payments should be made directly to the children. That type of order, the court found, was generally reserved for situations where it was clear that the custodial parent would not apply the money towards maintaining a home for the child as intended. In this case, the mother not only incurred home-related expenses but had actually borrowed money to meet the children’s needs. Plus, the fact that she was self-represented spoke against the allegation that she would fritter away the money on litigation; indeed she had testified that she planned to $60,000 to retire the family debt and fund the children’s education once the access litigation was resolved.
Even in the face of some out-of-the-ordinary scenarios like those found in Bourque v. Janzen, the bottom line is that child support payments are generally made from the paying parent to the custodial one. A court may allow exceptions to that basic rule, but those cases will be few and far between.
For the decisions that establish and apply these principles, see:
Taylor v. Taylor (1988), 64 O.R. (2d) 326,  O.J. No. 878 (Dist. Ct.).
Bourque v. Janzen,  S.J. No. 705, 2012 SKQB 458 (Q.B. (Fam. Div.)
Del Pozo v. Del Pozo (1992), 7 O.R. (3d) 591,  O.J. No. 220 (Ont. Prov. Div.)