The Family Law Act (Alberta) Will Change in 2020 and Children of Separated Unmarried Parents Will Have New Child Support Entitlements
In 2020 the Family Law Act will be changed to allow children 18 and older to qualify for child support if they are unable to live independently of their parents by reason of illness or disability.
How are children of divorced families currently different from children of parents who never married?
Section 46 of the Family Law Act defines the term “child” for the purposes of child support obligations and entitlements.
In the provincial Family Law Act, a child is a person under the age of 18 (the provincial age of majority) or a person who is between age 18 and 22 who is unable to withdraw from their parents care specifically because they are a full-time student.
The federal Divorce Act defines a similar term more broadly. Under that act, a child over the age of majority may be entitled to support indefinitely where the child is “unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause” to withdraw from their parents’ care. This usually includes being a full time student. As you can see, the Divorce Act gives more reasons why a child over the age of 18 would be entitled to child support. This currently includes illness or disability or other reasons why a child over 18 remains dependent on a parent.
The Divorce Act only applies to married spouses, while the Family Law Act applies to all parents regardless of the nature of their relationships. The difference between the two statutes means that the children of unmarried parents are only entitled to receive child support after the age of 18 if they are in school full-time, nor for any other reason, and that their entitlement ends at age 22, regardless of their status in school.
The Family Law Act will be amended as of December 31, 2019 to allow children aged 18 and older to potentially qualify for child support if they are unable to withdraw from their parents’ care due to:
- full-time attendance at school
- Illness or disability; or,
- “other cause”
There will be no prescribed age at which an entitlement to child support terminates.
“The effect of this amendment will be to bring the Family Law Act in line with the Divorce Act and give the children of unmarried parents entitlement to child support equivalent to that enjoyed by the children of married parents."