A child is generally entitled to receive child support for as long as they remain under the age of majority or are enrolled full time in a post-secondary program. However, sometimes support payors question the need to pay support when a child has unilaterally withdrawn from the parent’s control and does not have a relationship with the parent.
Determining whether child support should still be payable to an adult child in such a situation is a challenging issue for family law.
Hi. I’m an associate lawyer at Feldstein Family Law Group. In today’s video blog, I’ll be sharing with you the law as it relates to terminating child support for an adult child who has unilaterally rejected his or her relationship with the payor parent.
This is a thorny issue as it is one of the few areas of family law where a payor parent will attempt to claim that the quality of relationship with their adult child and the child’s blameworthy conduct is the reason he or she should stop paying support. The argument, more or less, is that the child should not be entitled to receive ongoing support as he or she has not maintained any communication or relationship with the parent, and is only interested in the parent to the extent of receiving child support.
While there is older case law to support the position of terminating support in such a situation, this line of argument poses a very challenging uphill battle, and one to which I would attach a very strong “proceed with caution” note. Courts detest using conduct as the sole marker of whether or not to refuse support to a person who is otherwise entitled to it. Similar to deciding spousal support, courts much prefer to decide entitlement and amount of support without regard to the quality of relationship or blameworthy conduct between the parties. Rather, they base their decision more on the recipient’s means, need, the payor’s ability to pay, or a material change in circumstances, if varying an existing Order for support.
In fact, a parent wishing to deviate from the Child Support Guidelines table amount for this reason bears the responsibility of proving to the court that the child’s egregious conduct justifies reducing or terminating child support. As part of meeting this exceptionally high threshold, courts have held that a payor parent must demonstrate that he or she has made meaningful efforts to maintain a positive relationship with the child. He or she must also establish that the child’s conduct was egregious in nature, and that it was completely unilateral and not a result of any negative actions or misconduct of the payor parent.
Even after proving this, parties must bear in mind that conduct is but one of many factors for a judge to consider, and it is certainly not alone a determinative factor. In several Ontario cases, despite the payor parent demonstrating that an adult child has completely shunned the parent enough to impair his or her request for child support, the child’s lack of financial independence and need for continued financial resources entitled the adult child to continued support from the payor parent.
For more information on child support, please visit our website, or call us at (905) 581-7222 to schedule a consultation. From the Feldstein Family Law Group, thanks for watching.