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Hello, my name is Jeffrey Hart and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group. Today I will be speaking to you about post-secondary expenses and how much can an adult child be expected to contribute.

Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelineswhich I will refer to simply as “the Guidelines,” specifically addresses those “special or extraordinary expenses” which the basic monthly child support or table amount does not include. An expense for post-secondary education is listed under this section. Section 7 of the Guidelines requires both parents to share in these costs in proportion to their income after deducting from expenses, the contribution if any, from the child. Taking into account the remaining provisions of the Guidelines, it is clear that adult children are expected to allocate some funds towards their post-secondary schooling, which is a view also well reflected in case law.

Having understood this, the next question that arises is how we expect adult children to contribute. Through their savings? Employment income? Scholarships? OSAP? Other student loans or lines of credit? And most importantly, how much are they expected to contribute?

The short answer to the question of how the child is expected to contribute is potentially “All of the above.”

Many, if not most judges hold the opinion that it is not unreasonable to expect an adult child to maintain employment either during the summer months when there is no school, or part-time on weekends during the school year. Likewise, a child is expected to take advantage of opportunities for scholarships, grants, bursaries and loans, so as to lessen the financial burden on themselves and their parents. How much the child is expected to contribute depends on the particular facts of the case. For example, how much the parents earn, the cost of the program of study, or whether it is the child’s first degree or not.

Some parents may argue that they should not be obligated to contribute to any post-secondary expenses until all of the child’s own resources have been fully exhausted, which would mean that the child should have obtained the maximum amount of student loans available, spent all of their earnings as well as any savings. This may be considered an extreme position for parents to take, and it is one that is generally not supported in the case law. Given the current economic climate, putting a child in the position of being saddled with debt before having steady employment is not particularly popular amongst judges.

One approach to take is that if the parents had not separated and were able to afford to pay for the child’s post-secondary schooling, would they have done so? Furthermore, would that child have been able to qualify for OSAP given the parents’ combined household income? Similarly, a child with separated parents should not alone be burdened with this cumbersome expense just on account of his or her parents having separated.

With regard to OSAP and other student loans, courts in Ontario have stated that parents will not be excused from their obligation to contribute because of the availability to their adult children of student loans. That being said, children will often be expected to obtain loans, but courts do not want them to graduate crushed in debt, if the combined income of the parents was sufficient to prevent them from incurring mounting loans.

Ultimately, the question asked by courts is: What contribution by the child would be reasonable in the circumstances, having regard to the means of both the parents, as well as the child? Of course the answer to the question will be determined on the facts of each situation and will be case specific.

If you would like to speak with one of our lawyers regarding your family law matter, please feel free to contact us at 905-581-7222 to schedule your initial consultation, or visit our website.

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