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The Freshman $15,000 – Child Support and Post-Secondary Education

Finding and securing good, quality employment for young people is tougher than ever. Competition is fierce and, for many jobs, a university level degree is considered a minimum level of education. At the same time, costs of education are rising in Alberta and across the country with many post-secondary institutions increasing tuition year over year.  


The pressures of the modern workforce combined with the time and expense of post-secondary education  means that more and more children remain dependant on their parents past the age of majority. Children are staying at home into their 20s and, dare I say, even into their 30s. This can certainly be an additional burden to parents who anticipated that their child related expenses would be nearing an end after high school graduation. It also raises an important question for parents who are separated or divorced: what are my child support obligations as my child gets older? How much do I have to pay? How long will this continue?


The payment of child support in Alberta is governed by the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act. It is well established in the law that children who are attending post-secondary education still require support. As a result, if you are the payor of child support, it is safe to say your obligation will continue. What that obligation looks like going forward, however, is likely to change.


Support for children pursuing post-secondary education will differ greatly depending on the circumstances of the children and the parents. If your child chooses to attend university away from home the courts have found that paying Section 3 Child Support (monthly, base support) in accordance with the Federal Child Support Guidelines may be inappropriate. The amount of Section 7 Child Support (payment for special and extraordinary expenses) may increase drastically but it may be that your child is expected to contribute to those expenses as well. Other factors that can affect support include your child’s employment, the availability of RESPs saved prior to relationship breakdown and, potentially, even your child’s relationship with you.


As we head toward the start of a new school year questions regarding ongoing contributions to your child’s education may arise. We can certainly provide you with legal advice regarding your ongoing child support obligation and lend our expertise to help resolve any issues that you may encounter. Please contact us for more information.