In a recent Ontario case, the court ruled that an adult daughter’s refusal to speak to her father did not remove his obligation for her continued child support.
Parents Go to Court Over Continued Child Support
The parents had six children together and separated in 2018. A previous child support order had been issued.
The parents went back to court regarding the issue of continuing child support for their eldest child, a daughter, who had turned 18 years old on March 23, 2021.
The daughter had resided full-time with the mother following the parents’ separation. She was in the process of completing her grade 12 education and was planning on attending university in the fall of 2021.
The mother claimed that the daughter was entitled to receive continued child support until she commenced university.
The father agreed that the child support should continue to the end of the daughter’s high school education in June 2021. However, he also submitted that the daughter had unilaterally ceased all communication with him without reasonable explanation. As such, the father claimed that by refusing to have contact with him or discuss her further education plans with him, she was beyond parental control and therefore fell outside of the definition of a “child of the marriage”. Essentially, he submitted that he was under no obligation to contribute to the daughter’s ongoing support and/or school expenses when he had little or no control over her choices. He contended that the daughter should negotiate with him directly on the issue of her continued support.
The question before the court was whether the daughter continued to be a “child of the marriage” for support purposes.
Court Rules That Daughter Is Still a Child of Marriage
The court began by explaining that the phrase “child of the marriage” is a term of art that is defined by the Divorce Act to include a child who is the age of majority or over and under the parents’ charge who is unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from parental charge or to obtain the necessaries of life. The court noted that the phrase “or other cause” is broadly defined and includes the continuation of the child’s education well into their 20s.
The court then stated:
“There is nothing in the Divorce Act or the cases decided pursuant to the Act that says a child must get along with a parent in order to be entitled to support except in extreme situations. In Misener v. Misener, , O.J. No. 1793 (Ont. S.C.) the Court held that a 20-year-old daughter’s estrangement from her father did not preclude him from having a support obligation while she attended college. The two argued over highly emotional, sensitive family issues. The situational conflict that arose did not disentitle the child to support.
In most cases, disruptions in the parent-child relationship have complicated and multi-faceted causes. The sparse available evidence does not satisfy the high onus of proof required to establish that [the daughter] has unilaterally terminated her relationship with the [father] for no good reason.”
In the result, the court therefore ruled that the daughter continued to be a child of the marriage and was entitled to continued support from her father. The court ordered the father’s child support obligations to continue until the end of August 2021, after which her support arrangements would be subject to discussion between the mother, father and daughter.
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (905) 695-1269 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.