Allow me to remind you at the outset that this topic is covered by both federal and provincial laws. The federal Divorce Act is for those families who are married and seeking a divorce. The provincial legislation in either Alberta or Saskatchewan that applies to unmarried parents or to married parents who aren’t looking to get a divorce.
This blog will cover how it works in each of these situations.
What are the child support eligibility requirements for children who want to continue their studies after high school?
Generally speaking, the legislation is aligned in all 3 jurisdictions – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and federally whereby children who are over the age of majority are entitled to be supported by their parents provided that they are attending a post-secondary institution on a full-time basis.
The age of majority in both Alberta and Saskatchewan is 18.
Once we know that a child fits under the eligible category, then we need to look at the amount that would be payable.
How do the calculations work?
Child support is divided into 2 types of payments:
- The basic monthly payment is intended to cover the necessities like food, clothing, and shelter; and
- Then we have certain categories of expenses which are shareable between parents based on each of their income levels.
If there a child is over the age of majority, the starting point for the “base support” is still the “child support tables” which are the formulas for calculating support. Then the question will turn to the facts of that particular situation – for example:
- where does your child plan on living while going to school? At home with a parent ? living on-campus? Living in an apartment?
- Also parents will need to figure out how much is available in education savings, scholarships, bursaries, student loans, and other sources of funding?
These are the kinds of questions to start the discussion about base support.
It will become clear very quickly that there’s going to be a huge difference financially depending on what the child’s circumstances will be for their post-secondary education. The case will really turn on the specifics, which is why it’s difficult to pre-plan for a lot of these things.
The next question to look at is those categories I mentioned – so here, post-secondary education expenses is one of the specific categories of “shareable expenses” between parents. At the very least, this will include tuition and books, but can include more than that depending on the circumstances.
When should parents start planning for post-secondary financial support of their children?
There’s 2 aspects to this – there’s the saving for post-secondary, and then there’s the actual plans for the payment of expenses once the time has come.
Let’s start with the saving aspect – many parents start a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for the children while they are still together, and some even continue these contributions after separation. A few things about for these savings plans:
- First, although there is no obligation to save for post-secondary education expenses, we’ve seen that there is an obligation to contribute once the time comes.
- Second, if parents have accumulated funds in an education savings account pre-separation, the balance in that account is typically divisible family property. There are many parents that decide between them that it will be ear-marked for the kids’ education, but that’s not mandatory.
- Third, if parents contribute after separation to their own education savings plan, that’s their own business – it doesn’t have to be something that’s shareable unless the parents agree to that.
- And lastly, there are some parents who decide to jointly contribute to one account – if parents do this, it’s important to keep a record of contributions.
Planning for the spending of the money once that time approaches
Although planning ahead is always the best, it’s sometimes hard to know what your child’s exact plans will be after Grade 12. When plans start to take shape, usually sometime during the Grade 12 year, then the serious discussions can happen about how parents will support their children post-graduation.
Although many parents don’t want to get divorce professionals involved again at this stage, it can be valuable to engage a lawyer or mediator to help solidify the plan for how each parent will financially contribute so that there’s a plan put in place that is representative of the obligations of each parent under the Child Support Guidelines.
Where there’s children attending post-secondary, we have to look at a number of circumstances to calculate the support payable. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach as we can generally do with children under the age of majority.
Henka Divorce Law & Mediation is a Collaborative Law and Family Mediation firm that helps families thrive as they transition to separation, divorce, or cohabitation. Understanding that every journey is different, we guide families through the right legal or mediation process that fits their unique situation.
Our client service is built on three pillars – focusing on the future, nurturing and supporting children, and working together towards well-being. This includes considering everyone’s needs throughout the process. We work closely with families to provide a meaningful and fair resolution, while keeping costs down by staying out of court.
We serve families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada through their separation or divorce by providing in-person and virtual Collaborative Law or Mediation services.
With extensive knowledge in matrimonial law, our founder Stephanie Dobson uses a caring, results-focused approach to help parents navigate a family separation or divorce while they connect with and support their children. Learn more about her approach and credentials.
As an educator, Stephanie Dobson is Founder, CEO, and Content Creator of Up A Notch Learning Inc., an e-learning platform to empower separating and divorcing families globally with a collection of positive and constructive resources. Visit our website to learn more.