Understanding child support: When a child is no longer attending school

By Timothy Matthews  |  September 28, 2020

Timothy Matthews

In Ontario, child support typically ends if a child is 18 or older and is not in school and does not suffer from an illness, disability or other cause that prevents them from withdrawing from the control of their parents.

There are exceptions. This age of entitlement to child support may be different if a child resides in a province or territory with a different age of majority. In rare cases, children who are 16 or 17 who live with neither parent can be considered not to be a “child” for the purposes of child support, if they have voluntarily withdrawn from parental control (for example, a child under 18 who is married).

If a child 18 or older takes time off between secondary school and post-secondary education to work or travel, child support would usually end. However, if that child does go on to post-secondary education within a reasonable amount of time, child support could be reinstated while they are in school full time (usually college, university or trade school). Talk to your lawyer about your particular situation, as this area of child support is guided by case law and is, therefore, very fact-specific.

Illness or disability

Children 18 years of age and older who are unable to withdraw from parental control due to illness or disability present a difficult challenge when determining child support. The main consideration is whether the illness or disability prevents the child from being gainfully employed or the child is otherwise unable to withdraw from parental control. Depending on the nature of the illness or disability and the needs of the child, parental responsibility to support a permanently disabled child may last for the rest of the child’s life. If the child receives disability benefits, for example, from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), this is likely to affect the amount of support payable, but will not necessarily affect the child’s entitlement to child support.

Until 2017, disabled children of married couples in Ontario were treated differently than those of unmarried couples for the purposes of child support. This differential treatment was struck down by the court in the case of Coates v. Watson, 2017 ONCJ 454. The Ontario legislation that deals with entitlement to child support, the Family Law Act, was subsequently amended to include an entitlement to child support in this situation.

Time to review

Prior to your child turning 18, it’s a good idea to review child support status. If you think that child support should continue or end for a child who is 18 and is not enrolled in school, it’s important to talk to your lawyer to get legal advice as soon as possible. Contact us at Henderson Family Law.


This content is provided as a general informational source by Henderson Family Law, and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, or establish a lawyer-client relationship. Every situation is complex and fact-specific, and appropriate advice will vary accordingly. Do not rely on this information for legal decision-making under any circumstances. Please consult with us and obtain proper advice and strategy concerning the specifics of your particular situation.

Back to Blog