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Should Children Pay For Their Own University?

Couples often separate when their children are making plans to attend college or university.  This may add additional stress to both parents and to the children looking to attend and pay for school.  There are many misconceptions about child support, and separating parents often search for the best lawyer for their child support dispute.

The Court has the power to require a parent pay child support for the “children of the marriage.”  The Divorce Act defines “children of the marriage as:

a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,

(a) is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or

(b) is the age of majority or over and under their charge but is unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life;

Where the children are primarily resident with one parent the other parent pays child support based on the Child Support Guidelines table amount.  This amount is set by regulation based on the number of children and the support payor’s income.  The table is updated by regulation based on costs of living and based on government child benefits.

In addition to the table amount, extraordinary expenses, such as major health expenses not covered by health insurance, day care, and some post secondary educational expenses.

But, how much should the child be responsible to pay?

In Lewi v. Lewi, the Ontario Court of Appeal considered how much children should pay for their own education where the 2 children had significant savings obtained from gifts from their grandfather and summer jobs.

The father argued that the children had enough for education as they were given savings bonds that were later invested amounting to a total of $67,000.00 for each child. The father argued that parents are required to contribute to post-secondary education expenses only after the children have used their own funds to pay for such expenses.

The mother argued the children shouldn’t be required to use their savings for their education as the parents have the primary obligation to pay.  She argued that the children have no obligation to draw on their savings to reduce the parental obligation to pay for school.

The Court accepted neither of the extreme positions advanced by the parents.  The Court of Appeal stated:

[42] … As a general rule, an adult child should be required to make a reasonable and meaningful contribution towards post-secondary education expenses. The amount of that contribution will depend on all of the circumstances but must include a consideration of the “means” of the parents and the children. In such a consideration, it is appropriate to consider income and savings of both the parents and the child. In fairness, when a child has savings that are being looked to for the purpose of determining the amount of his or her contribution, the savings and comparable assets of each of the parents ought also to be considered.

When a court states that a decision will “depend on all of the circumstances”, that means it will be a fact driven determination.  Any fact driven determination will require that you put your best foot forward.  You will want and need the best facts for the court and often an experienced family lawyer will assist you in doing so.

If you have questions about child support, section 7 expenses, post secondary expenses, college tuition, university tuition, or your rights and obligations relating to your children contact Windsor family law lawyers Mary Fox, Tanya McNevin or Thomas MacKay today by calling 519-259-1820.   We serve clients in Windsor, Tecumseh, Lasalle, Essex, Leamington, Kingsville, Belle River and Lakeshore, and throughout southern Ontario.

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