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Disability & Adult Child Support

Ontario is about to witness a profound change in the way that disabled adult children are dealt with under the law for the purposes of claiming child support.  The Provincial Government intends to table an amendment to Ontario’s Family Law Act (“FLA”) this Fall, to give custodial parents of adult children with disabilities the right to claim child support.

The proposed legislative amendment to the provisions of the FLA come in the wake of a recent Provincial Court decision where a Brampton single mother won her fight to claim child support for her 22 year old disabled son.  The court held that the provisions for child support in the Provincial legislation, the FLA, were unconstitutional in that they discriminated against adult children with disabilities.  

Single parents or common law parents who wish to claim child support are governed by the terms of the Provincial legislation when it comes to making claims for child support whereas married parents will fall under the Federal legislation, the Divorce Act.  The critical difference between the two pieces of legislation is that the FLA does not make provision for ordering the payment of support for an adult child with disabilities whereas the Divorce Act clearly does.  In the recent ruling, Mr. Justice William Sullivan made a precedent setting decision by finding that the Applicant Mother, Robyn Coates, had the right to claim support for her son, Joshua, who was over the age of 18 but was unable to withdraw from parental control because of a disability.

For all intents and purposes, the ruling by Mr. Justice Sullivan adopts the Federal Divorce Act wording for determining if a child is entitled to support, which means that Ms. Coates’ son was eligible for child support from his father.

For many years, lawyers, judges and legal analysts have noted with concern the apparently inexplicable difference between the way disabled adult children are treated for the purposes of their support rights under Provincial legislation versus the much more expansive definition of a child under the Federal Divorce Act. Assuming the new legislation is passed, this will now be remedied, something that many consider to be a long overdue step.

If you have any questions relating to any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact Marc Tannenbaum at or 905.276.0417.

This article is provided for general information purposes and should not be considered a legal opinion. Clients are advised to obtain legal advice on their specific situations.

If you have questions, please reach out

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