The answer is not necessarily, as confirmed by the recent case of O. v. O., 2013 BCSC 1609. In this decision, Mr. O was making an application to cancel child support payable by him for the parties’ 19 year old twins. The twins, I and T, were both enrolled full time at the University of British Columbia. Ms. L took the position that Mr. O should continue paying child support, as well as contribute to the twins’ tuition as an extraordinary expense.
Parents have an obligation to support their children provided that they are a “child of the marriage”. The principles of law that relate to ongoing child support for adult children are set out in the case of Farden v. Farden,  B.C.J. No. 1315 (S.C.). The test for whether or not attendance in a post-secondary program will allow a finding that the child is still a “child of the marriage” requires “an examination of all of the circumstances”, which includes the following factors:
(1) whether the child is enrolled in a course of studies and whether it is full-time or part-time;
(2) whether or not the child has applied for or is eligible for student loans or other financial assistance;
(3) the career plans of the child, i.e. whether the child has some reasonable and appropriate plan or is simply going to college because there is nothing better to do;
(4) the ability of the child to contribute to his or her own support through part-time employment;
(5) the age of the child;
(6) the child’s past academic performance, whether the child is demonstrating success in the chosen course of studies;
(7) what plans the parents made for the education of their children, particularly where those plans were made during cohabitation;
(8) at least in the case of a mature child who has reached the age of majority, whether or not the child has unilaterally terminated a relationship from the parent from whom support is sought.
The facts of the case are rather interesting. After a year in Commerce at UBC, T failed four courses and did not receive a grade for three courses out of the ten courses she had registered for. I failed five courses, did not receive a mark for one course, and received a C+, C and B+ in her other courses.
Ms. L’s position was that it was because of the twins having to work part-time jobs that contributed to their poor marks; however, the Court found that the pursuit of university degrees for the twins, while a commendable goal, was not a reasonable plan given the circumstances. The twins had each already incurred over $20,000 in debt as a result of their choice to spend their first year studying away from home at a business management school in Kelowna, though they were eligible for further student loans.
There was no evidence that the parents had discussed the twins’ education plan prior to separation, and there were no college funds, RESPs or anything else to suggest they had contemplated a university education for their children. Further, Mr. O’s income had been reduced significantly, and the twins had unilaterally terminated contact with him, while there was evidence that he continued attempts to initiate contact in a thoughtful manner to discuss their future plans. Ultimately, Madam Justice Kloegman declared I and T to be no longer children of the marriage, and responsible for their own education.
This case illustrates the importance of discussing future plans with your children and your partner. If it is expected or anticipated that your child will go into a post-secondary program, then you and your partner can plan for it and put money aside, or discuss other potential financing options, including scholarships and bursaries, student loans or the child working during the summer and part-time. These discussions are important, both for the child and the parents, in planning for the future.