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When does child support end? How do I end it?

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When does child support end? How do I end it?

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015
Answer

The law says that parents are responsible for financially supporting their dependent children. Dependent usually means until the child turns 18 and sometimes longer.

A child is not a dependant if they:

  • marry, or
  • are at least 16 years old and leave home ("voluntarily withdraw from parental control").

Withdrawal from parental control means your child decides not to live with you anymore and not to follow your rules. The withdrawal from parental control must be voluntary. This means your child cannot be forced to leave.

A child who is over the age of majority, that is, 18 or older, may still be dependent if they cannot support themselves because they:

  • have a disability or illness, or
  • are going to school full-time.

Even if your separation agreement or court order says when child support ends, the responsibility to pay child support usually continues for as long as your child is a dependant.

When your child is no longer a dependant, you have to take steps to make sure the separation agreement or court order is no longer being enforced. You may have to contact the Family Responsibility Office if they are enforcing child support payments. Or, you may have to go to court and bring a motion to change.

Child support is separate from access

The right to child support and access are two different issues.  They are both rights of the child. A parent cannot be denied access to their child because they do not pay child support. And a parent who does not have access may still have to pay child support.

1. Check what your agreement or court order says

Check to see if your separation agreement or court order says when child support ends.

For example, your separation agreement or court order may say that child support ends when your child turns 18 years old. Or, it may say that child support ends when your child finishes high school.

But, the responsibility to pay child support generally continues for as long as your child remains a dependent.

Dependent usually means until the child turns 18 and sometimes longer.

A child is not a dependant if they:

  • marry, or
  • are at least 16 years old and leave home ("voluntarily withdraw from parental control").

Withdrawal from parental control means your child decides not to live with you anymore and not to follow your rules. The withdrawal from parental control must be voluntary. This means your child cannot be forced to leave.

For example, if your child is "kicked out" or if the living conditions at your home is so bad that your child is forced to leave, the withdrawal is not voluntary. You will continue to be responsible for supporting your child.

A child who is over the age of majority, that is, 18 or older, may still be dependent if they cannot support themselves because they:

  • have a disability or illness, or
  • are going to school full-time.

In the case of disability or chronic illness, a child over the age of majority can remain dependent for their entire life.

In the case of post-secondary students, a child who is diligently pursuing (not just enrolled in) their first undergraduate degree or diploma is generally in need of support until they finish school. This usually lasts until the child turns 22 or gets a degree or diploma. Sometimes support can be ordered to allow the child to get more than one degree.

Reviewed: 
September, 2016
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2. Talk to your partner

You and your partner can try to agree on whether child support should end. You can talk to your partner on your own, with the help of someone you both trust, or with the help of a lawyer or mediator.

You have a separation agreement

If you and your partner agree to change or end the child support in your separation agreement, you can make a new child support agreement.

You have a court order

If you and your partner agree to change or end the child support in your final court order, you do not have go to court to have a judge make a decision for you. But you still need to file documents with the court and get a new order based on your agreement.

You and your partner can agree to change child support on consent. The court then makes a consent order based on your agreement.

Reviewed: 
September, 2016
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3. Contact the Family Responsibility Office

You should keep making support payments until the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) tells you in writing to stop. The FRO is a government agency that enforces child support and spousal support.

There is an end date

If your separation agreement or court order:

  • has a date when support payments end, and
  • is registered with the FRO,

the FRO will stop enforcing support payments when that date has passed. You can write to the FRO and remind them that the date is coming up soon. Tell them which paragraph in the agreement or order has the date.

If your separation agreement or court order:

  • has an event when support payments end, and
  • is registered with the FRO,

the FRO will stop enforcing support payments when that event has passed. Write to the FRO and give them proof that the event has happened, such as your child finishing college or university. The FRO may contact your partner to confirm that the event has happened.

There is no end date

If your separation agreement or court order doesn't say when support payments end, you and your partner must agree that it ends before the FRO will stop enforcing payments.

Fill out the Notice to End Support and tell the FRO why you think child support should end. The FRO will contact your partner.

If your partner…

Then the FRO…

doesn't agree that child support should end,

will continue enforcing the separation agreement or court order.

doesn't respond to the FRO,

may stop enforcing payments or enforce a lower amount of support.

doesn't respond to the FRO but later tells the FRO that payments should not have ended,

may start enforcing payments again.

agrees in writing to end support,

will tell you in writing that you can stop making support payments.

 

The FRO can't change any of the terms in your separation agreement or court order. They only try to make sure support is being paid.

Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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4. Go to court to end child support

If you and your partner can't agree to end child support, you can go to court and ask a judge to decide. You do this by bringing a motion to change.

Going to court can be a complicated process and it can take a lot of time. It can be stressful and expensive, but it is sometimes necessary to decide your issues. This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case.

A motion to change is the name of the court process used to ask a judge to make changes to support in your separation agreement or court order.

You have to tell the judge why you think your child is not a dependent. For example:

  • Your child has finished school, married, or moved out on their own.
  • Your child has a full-time job.
  • Your child is living with the payor parent or a different person.

You can talk to a lawyer who can tell you if facts exist that may convince a judge that your separation agreement or court order should be ended and help you through the process.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers will provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General
Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services
Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General
Legal Aid Ontario - Aide juridique Ontario

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