Adult Children: Entitled to Child Support Again?
An empty nest peaceful for the past six years. Looking down the road towards a well-deserved retirement in the fall. The phone call that changed it all. The middle son lost his job and is asking to come back home to live with his parents. My client is asking what his financial obligations will be to his once independent son.
Does the Ontario Law Provide Guidance?
For an adult child over the age of majority to regain entitlement to receive child support is found in the Child Support Guidelines (Ontario and Canada). At least two sections prove helpful.
- Start with the standard automatic monthly amount of child support calculated as if the child was younger. These amounts represent the average expenditures of parents with similar incomes within the same province. The ‘table amount of child support’ is easily located on a table showing the number of children entitled to receive support intersecting with the gross annual income of the paying parent or spouse. http://bit.ly/1gHr3IA The monthly table amount is considered to be the base amount that could be paid in support of the adult child no longer able to fend for himself.
- If the table amount is “inappropriate’, negotiate or seek a court to order an “appropriate” amount. The language used in this part of the statute allows for some latitude.
“having regard to the condition, means, needs, and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each parent or spouse to contribute to the support of the child”.
This option offers a broader level of review to customize child support based on the child’s best interests. The review examines all relevant information from the child’s health to actual financial needs, future education plans, any capital assets, even to anticipated inheritances. No one factor is weighted to be of more importance than any other. However, this customization is not automatic. There must be “clear and compelling“ proof that the table amount of child support is inappropriate given a family’s factual circumstances.
A Child’s Reasonable Contribution to Support their Budget
Together with the child’s help, the parent should start with the compilation of an actual budget of the child’s needs. That includes not only the necessities of food, clothing and shelter but some cultural and social expenses.
A child with capital assets accumulated from birthday gifts from relatives over the years, severance pay from loss of employment and even lottery wins will be expected to contribute to his or her expenses. There is no legal obligation as to how much that contribution should be such as the percentage of the child’s total monthly expenses. The expectation is simply that the contribution be a reasonable one.
For the adult child who has moved back home to return to university, a reasonable contribution is also expected. That contribution may be in the form of student loans, scholarships, bursaries, grants, and pursuing employment opportunities in the summer or part-time throughout the academic year. Often, too, a parent paying the child support may impose certain conditions on the child as a way to audit the use of child support. Monitoring the child’s efforts to obtain bursaries and grants received, copies of student loan applications and the bank statements showing the receipt of these efforts. Immediate copies of transcripts and proof of full-time attendance at a recognized post-secondary educational program as well as monthly or quarterly budget reviews are other examples.
All Financial Circumstances are Considered
With retirement in view, my client now without an ex-spouse to assist with the son’s recent financial crisis, found himself looking for options. He needed to be accurate about his own financial ability to see how he could manage if at all, to provide for his son. He had planned some time ago to keep limited liquid resources and live within a modest budget to meet his retirement lifestyle expectations. His investments were registered and to withdraw any funds would increase his tax liability. His pension was not available to use.
He felt the tension between what he believed was a moral obligation to his adult child to help him through this period of uncertainty and the little he would be able to offer him.
A Great Resolution
After our discussion of the legal issues, more than space allows in this blog, my client took away a list of ‘talking points’ to share with his son. He had readily acknowledged that his offspring was a responsible person and that the situation wouldn’t be forever. Although, it would be nice to have someone around.
The client reported back that given his comfortable understanding from our discussion of where the law guided him, he and his son both decided to open their dialogue with a frank discussion. They looked at the son’s financial needs and how a budget would help him stay on track for the period of time he needed to reside with my client in the family home. My client offered to use his professional network to try to find a new employment opportunity for his son to explore.
Interestingly, their earnest discussion came the son’s expression of needing emotional support from his father. The son offered to take on the lion’s share of household duties and to pick up their old habit of weekend hikes and kayaking trips. The strain on my client was lifted. He was firm on his son’s financial sharing of all their expenses.