Child Support for Adult Children in Alberta and the “Farden Factors”
The Divorce Act and the Federal Child Support Guidelines (and also the Family Law Act and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines, which are almost identical to the federal guidelines) provide a framework for determining child support in Alberta, including situations involving adult children.
What is a “Child of the Marriage”?
According to the Divorce Act, child support is payable for a “child of the marriage” (or a “child” under the Family Law Act (Alberta)). It is defined 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(a) is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or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 unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.
In other words, child support may be payable for a child that is older than 18 in Alberta. One of the well defined “other causes” is post secondary education.
The Farden Factors
Child support matters related to post-secondary education for children over 18 in Alberta can be intricate. There are various factors influencing the court’s decisions. In these situations, the Farden factors, derived from the case known as Farden v. Farden, 1993 CanLII 2570 (BC SC), serve as essential criteria for determining child support for a child that has reached the age of majority.
What follows are each of the factors that the court must analyze when making a determination of whether or not (and if yes, how much) an adult child should receive child support, if they must remain in the care of a parent while they are engage in full-time post-secondary studies.
1. Enrollment and Course of Studies:
The first Farden factor examines whether the adult child is enrolled in a course of studies and the nature of that enrollment. They will look at whether the enrollment is full-time or part-time. This factor acknowledges the commitment the child has made to their education. Thus, shedding light on the level of financial support required.
2. Student Loans and Financial Assistance:
The second factor considers whether the adult child has applied for or is eligible for student loans or other financial assistance. This factor recognizes the availability of alternative funding sources. It also assesses the child’s efforts to secure financial support beyond parental contributions.
3. Career Plans of the Child:
The third Farden factor delves into the career plans of the adult child. It distinguishes between those who have a well-thought-out plan and those who may be pursuing higher education without clear goals. This factor ensures that the financial support provided aligns with the child’s genuine pursuit of educational and career objectives.
4. Ability to Contribute Through Employment:
The fourth factor evaluates the adult child’s ability to contribute to their own support through part-time employment. It recognizes the importance of fostering independence and self-sufficiency in the child, considering their potential for earning income while pursuing studies.
5. Age of the Child:
The fifth Farden factor takes into account the age of the adult child. Different ages may come with varying financial needs and levels of independence, influencing the court’s determination of appropriate child support.
6. Past Academic Performance:
The sixth factor assesses the adult child’s past academic performance. This consideration aims to determine whether the child is demonstrating success in their chosen course of studies. It is reinforcing the idea that parental support should be directed toward a purposeful and productive academic endeavor.
7. Parental Plans for Education:
The seventh Farden factor looks at the plans parents made for the education of their children, especially if those plans were formulated during cohabitation. This factor acknowledges any pre-existing agreements or expectations regarding parental financial contributions to education.
8. Unilateral Termination of Relationship:
The eighth and final factor, particularly applicable to mature children who have reached the age of majority, examines whether the child has unilaterally terminated a relationship with the parent from whom support is sought. This factor acknowledges the dynamics of the parent-child relationship and how it may impact the obligation for financial support.
These Farden factors collectively create a comprehensive framework for courts to assess the unique circumstances of each case. It emphasizes a holistic approach to determining child support for adult children, considering not only the financial aspects but also the individual characteristics and choices of the adult child and the historical agreements made by the parents.
Challenges In Determining Child Support For Adult Children In Alberta
Determining child support for adult children in Alberta is tough due to their diverse situations, the varying costs of education, and the need to assess each parent’s financial capacity and job prospects. The complexity arises because each case is unique, making it hard to have a one-size-fits-all solution.
One of the main challenges comes from the different situations of adult children. Things like going to college or vocational training contribute to the complexity. Unlike younger children, adult children have different needs and costs that make a standardized approach not practical.
Education costs, including tuition, books, and living expenses, differ a lot. Figuring out a fair amount from each parent becomes complicated as it requires carefully looking at the specific education and costs of the adult child. This is even more complicated when assessing each parent’s financial situation. Differences between parents add more layers of complexity.
Checking if an adult child can work part-time adds another challenge. This involves looking at what job opportunities are available and understanding if they can manage work and studies well.
It Can Become Nuanced!
Legal terms and criteria, like what counts as a “child of the marriage” or the considerations in specific cases like the Farden factors, add more complexity. Different interpretations and uses of these legal ideas make it hard to reach consistent decisions.
Changes in circumstances add to the difficulty. Both parents and adult children might see changes in income, work, or education over time. Adjusting child support to these changes needs constant assessment.
The legal process itself is complex and emotionally tough, making it harder to resolve child support issues. Disagreements between parents might lead to legal action, and alternative ways to solve disagreements might be needed, making it even more challenging to find a solution that makes everyone happy.
Given all these challenges, getting help from a legal professional is important. Talking to a family law lawyer who knows Alberta’s laws can guide you through the complexities and help find a fair solution that fits the unique circumstances of each case. The family law lawyers at Kahane Law Office in Calgary and Edmonton deal with this issue all the time, and can help you.
Navigating the complexities of child support for adult children requires a careful analysis of the law, including the Farden factors, and the parents and child’s specific circumstances. By examining enrollment status, financial assistance eligibility, career plans, employment capabilities, age, academic performance, parental plans, and relationship dynamics, the court aims to make decisions that are fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the adult child.
If you find yourself involved in a situation where these factors come into play, seeking legal advice from a family law lawyer is crucial. At Kahane Law in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, our family lawyers can help with your child support issues. Email or call us at [email protected], 780-571-8463 (Edmonton) or [email protected], 403-225-8810 (Calgary) to get started right away.