I recently blogged on a case where the British court disallowed an adult son’s plea for his wealthy parents to continue to financially support him, which litigation was brought after his parents significantly reduced their financial involvement.

A different outcome was achieved in Dove v. MacIntyre, a recent decision before the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Family Division, where divorced parents were dueling over the issue of support for their adult daughter. In this case, the mother applied to the court seeking an order that the father pay child support for their 25-year old daughter during her attendance at a dental hygiene program.

Amongst other issues the Court addressed was whether or not the child was a dependant for the purposes of child support, with the definition in the applicable statute including the situation where a child is over the age of majority but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from the charge of the parents or obtain the necessaries of life. Particular attention was paid to the situation, such as in this case, where post-secondary education was being pursued, which can qualify as an “other cause” for purposes of the definition.

Various factors established by the cases were enumerated by the Court to determine whether the  child was eligible for support, including that she tried to finance her education through loans, her income was insufficient to allow her to afford to pay for all of the program costs, her education plan was reasonable and she has secured employment as a result, the mother had taken on extra work in order to help finance her daughter’s studies, her father was remarried and in a two-income household, etc.

The Court was satisfied that the daughter was a dependant child for the period in question, and compelled the father to share in a portion of the education costs equally as the mother.

Had the father been deceased and had the dependant support case been levelled against his estate, I am not certain that the daughter would have fared as well as she did in this case. Under the Succession Law Reform Act, the definition of a dependant is different than in the family law statute under consideration in the Dove case, such that to qualify as a dependant the person must be someone the deceased (i) was providing support to immediately before death, or (ii) was under a legal obligation to support immediately before death. An analysis of the latter of these qualifications would be needed to resolve the issue, and without a laundry list of clearly delineated factors to consider (unlike those applied in the family law context in Dove), the outcome seems less clear to me. Although it also remains open to an independent adult child to apply for dependant support on the moral obligation ground, in Ontario this ground appears to continue to be treated as but one factor to consider in the context of support claims.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Natalia Angelini