It’s almost back-to-school time, and with it comes the usual surge of expenses for parents. For separated or divorced parents of older children, the allocation of education costs can be contentious, particularly if the child has already completed one university or college degree, and is embarking on a second degree. A very common question arises in this scenario:
Under what circumstances do parents have to pay for their adult child’s post-secondary education?
The recent decision in an Ontario case called Laramie v. Laramie is a goldmine of information on this narrow legal issue. Here are some of the main points of the court’s own summary:
- An adult child undertaking educational studies may trigger a right to child support, but it is not automatic. The question is whether the child is “unable” to withdraw from parental charge.
- An adult child who looks to their parents to continue to support them through their advanced studies cannot claim indefinite dependency while engaging in “half-hearted or ill-conceived educational endeavours.”
- The test is whether the child is “unable without the direct or indirect financial assistance of the parents to pursue a reasonable course of post-secondary education to the end of bettering the future prospects of the child.”
- The factors that courts consider in determining entitlement for children enrolled in post-secondary studies include, without limitation, the following:
- Is the child actually enrolled? Is it a full- or part-time program?
- Has the child applied for or received student loans, bursaries or scholarships?
- Can the child contribute to his or her support through savings or part-time work?
- Does the child have a reasonable and appropriate education and career plan? Or do they just have nothing better to do?
- Is their primary focus on school? Or is it primarily on career, with school being secondary?
- What are the benefits, costs, and prospects of the success of the child’s education plan?
- Is this the child’s first post-secondary degree? Or is it an extended graduate program?
- Is the child engaging diligently in his or her studies? How is their academic performance?
- What is the child’s age, qualifications, aptitude, level of maturity, sense of responsibility, and experience?
- What are the means, needs and other circumstances of the parents and the child?
- Is the child willing to remain reasonably accountable to the parents with respect to their education plans and progress?
Note that not all of these factors have to be considered to show a child’s entitlement. A child who is diligently pursuing studies, in a suitable program, will generally be entitled to support for the first college or university program. This will involve a reasonable degree of attendance, involvement, engagement and success in the program, in light of the child’s overall circumstances.
For the full text of the decision, see:
 Kohan v. Kohan, 2016 CarswellAlta 736 (C.A.).
 Geran v. Geran, 2011 SKCA 55 (CanLII), 2011 CarswellSask 333 (C.A.).
 Whitton; Farden v. Farden (1993), 1993 CanLII 2570 (BC SC), 48 R.F.L. (3d) 60 (B.C. Master); Geran; Rebenchuk; Haist v. Haist (2010), 2010 ONSC 1283 (CanLII), 83 R.F.L. (6th) 147 (Ont. S.C.J.); Caterini v. Zaccaria, 2010 ONSC 6473 (CanLII), 2010 CarswellOnt 9344 (S.C.J.); Menegaldo; Charron v. Dumais, 2016 ONSC 7491 (CanLII), 2016 ONSC 7491 (S.C.J.); Kohan v. Kohan, 2016 CarswellAlta 736 (C.A.).