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  • Writer's pictureJared Davies, Lawyer

Junior hockey, child support and university pursuant to Campbell v. Campbell, 2023 ONSC 5952

This family law case revolves around the modification of a child support order issued in October 2020 concerning the parties' son. The child finished his junior hockey career and commenced studies at university. He is enrolled in a four-year program. The Applicant is seeking an adjustment to child support and a contribution toward the child’s post-secondary education costs.


Legal Issues


1. Whether the child qualifies as a "child of the marriage" after finishing junior hockey?

2. What child support should the Respondent pay during the time while the child is away at school?

3. What child support should the Respondent pay while the child is home for the summer?


Analysis


Child of the Marriage


The Respondent claims that the child was no longer a "child of the marriage" after finishing hockey and before starting university. However, the Divorce Act considers a child who is unable to withdraw from parental care and support due to education, so the child remains a child of the marriage:


[14] Under the Divorce Act, the age of majority is defined by provincial legislation, where it exists: Divorce Act, s. 2. In Ontario, the age of majority is 18: Age of Majority and Accountability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. A.7, s. 1. David is over the age of majority. However, he was still a child of the marriage in the April to September period because he was going to be going to school in September. He was no different than any other post-secondary student during that period. As a student, he was unable to withdraw from his parents’ charge.


[15] Mr. Campbell is therefore liable to pay child support for David for the period from April 18, 2023, to September 1, 2023, a period of four and one-half months.


Child Support Calculation during the summer


The next issue revolves around determining the amount of child support the Respondent should pay during the summer months when the child is with the Applicant.


According to the precedent set in Coghill, the Respondent is obligated to pay monthly child support during the summer months in the amount of $910 (based off the guidelines). This includes $910 for the summer months of each year until the child completes his university education. This calculation is based on the principle that the primary parent bears the costs when the child resides with them.


Ongoing child dupport While the child is away at university


In this case, the Respondent was required to contribute one-third of the child support amount paid during the summer months for the school months. This helps cover the costs of maintaining the custodial parent's home as a place for the child to return to during breaks.


[22] In addition to requiring the non-custodial parent to pay Guidelines support for the summer months, the court in Coghill required the non-custodial parent to pay one-third of that amount for the months the child was away at school (the “school months”) to help defray the costs of maintaining the custodial parent’s home as a place for the child to return to during the summer months and extended school breaks.


Consequently, the court mandates that the Respondent pays one-third of $910 per month ($303) for the school months.


With respect to tuition and other school expenses, the court noted that this is a genuine consideration as a section 7 expense:


[27] As the court explained in Coghill and as I explained Craig v. Niro, 2022 ONSC 5178, the exercise of apportioning a child’s post-secondary expenses requires that the court determine the reasonable costs of the child’s post-secondary education and how much the child can reasonably contribute to those costs. I have some information in this regard, but not enough.


However, in the current case there was not enough evidence put forward to resolve this issue.


Conclusion


The court's ruling in Campbell v. Campbell, 2023 ONSC 5952, clarified the child support obligations for the transitional period when a child completes junior hockey and embarks on university studies. The decision reaffirmed that a child may still qualify as a "child of the marriage". The judgment also outlined precise calculations for child support during the summer months and the school months to equitably distribute the primary parent's expenses. However, the case highlighted the importance of presenting sufficient evidence to determine reasonable costs for post-secondary education, which was left unresolved in this instance.

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