How Long Does Child and Spousal Support Last?
Under Canadian family law, every parent has to provide financial support for children who are under their control and still dependent on them for their care. The general rule is that children over the age of 18 and who are working, are independent, and therefore do not need support. Where children are enrolled in full-time studies, the time it takes for them to achieve independence from their parents can be later, in which case, support will continue until about the age of 23 or later, depending on the child’s field of study.
Unfortunately, previous judicial decisions do not provide much guidance on when a parent can stop paying child support. Because each case is decided based on a unique set of facts, there is no fixed age at which children lose their right to claim support. However, these are a few of the ways child support can be terminated:
- An agreement between husband and wife to terminate child support by a certain age (however, the court can always overturn an agreement that is not fair to the child);
- An Order of the Court that terminates child support;
- A parent’s financial situation requires that child support be terminated; and
- The relationship between parent and child has broken down.
In the case of spousal support, the husband and wife are free to agree on whatever amount for spousal support they want, and the court will not intervene. However, where they are not able to agree, the amount and duration of spousal support varies widely. As a general rule, the duration of spousal support will be equal to the number of years of the marriage. The objective of spousal support is to compensate the lower-earning spouse so that they maintain an equivalent standard of living until they are able to rebuild their life. However, when deciding the amount and duration of support, a court will consider a number of factors, including:
- Whether there are children from the marriage, and who has custody;
- The incomes of each spouse;
- The age of each spouse;
- Whether they still have time to rebuild their lives ( i.e. a break-up between young spouses will normally result in lower spousal support payments, whereas a marriage break-down between older spouses will result in higher support payments)