FAQs about Post Secondary Support in Alberta

In extreme cases, failing to pay child support is a criminal offence and may lead to arrest. Most parents who are no longer together but have dependants are eager to know much child support they are expected to pay and for how long. Some are surprised to learn this support extends to when a child studies after school, called post secondary support. 

Below, we answer frequently asked questions about who pays for school and post secondary support in Alberta:

7 FAQs about Post Secondary Support in Alberta

How long do I have to pay child support?

You have to pay child support for as long your child remains a dependant. Typically, this means until they are 18 years old. A child is not considered dependant if they marry or are at least 16 years old and choose to leave home.

Furthermore, if your child is attending post-secondary education on a part of full-time basis at a recognized educational institution, you may still be obligated to pay for post secondary child support in Alberta.

Post secondary child support continues until a child turns 22-years-old or completes their qualification. There are exceptions whereby a judge may order a continuation of child support payments, especially if an adult child cannot support themselves dues to illness or disability.

Which parent should file for post secondary child support in Alberta?

Applications for post secondary child support in Alberta must be filed while your child is in school. The Divorce Act only permits parents to file for an application. However, if you and your ex-partner were never married, then the child, a guardian or a parent may file under a Family Law Act.

If both parents enter a Consent Order under the Divorce Act agreeing their child will not receive any support, then the child will have zero power to change the order or seek any support from either parent.

Is my child required to financially contribute towards post secondary support?

If your child is over the majority age, i.e. 18 years old, the court will likely adopt a “laddered approach” when deciding upon their ability to financially contribute towards their expenses. Of course, this is determined by the parents and their child’s unique circumstances.

A “laddered approach” dictates that over the course of your child’s study, they will be expected to contribute more towards their education as they progress. Earning additional income and access to scholarships and student loans are considered by the court before examining the percentage of a parent’s contribution. That being said, a child will never be forced to max out their loans to decrease a parent’s support.

Who do I pay post secondary child support to?

Post secondary support payments can be made directly to the custodial parent, your child or a third party, such as your child’s school. Paying your child directly is generally discouraged unless you have a court order, in which case you are obligated to.

What factors does a judge consider when awarding post secondary support in Alberta?

Besides considering the child’s ability to contribute to their education and expenses, a court will review the following factors;

  • Your child’s age
  • If they live at home
  • If they are enrolled in studies
  • What they are studying and their academic performance
  • Their career plans
  • Any provisions parents have made for their child’s education
  • Additional sources of financial contributions like RESP

How do RESPS contribute to post secondary support in Alberta?

RESPS considered joint property are usually the first funds used to contribute towards post secondary support in Alberta. If your child has received RESPS gifted by a third party, then these will be used before your RESP contribution.

Any RESPs in your name remain your property. While these funds will likely be used for post secondary support payments, your ex-partner may not rely on them, and vice-versa.

What conditions does my child have to uphold for me to honour my post secondary child support obligation?

Your financial obligation remains binding so long as:

  1. Your child is enrolled in an accredited institution and is actively pursuing their career goals.
  2. Your child has a good academic standing (defined by the school), and typically a minimum GPA or competition of a minimum of training or working hours.
  3. Full academic records must be available to both parents. 


While it’s best to resolve post secondary child support agreements outside the courtroom, this may be impossible. It’s advisable to seek professional legal help if you and your ex-partner or ex-spouse cannot agree upon post-secondary child support arrangements, or one of you cannot afford to contribute or you wish to change a prior agreement.

Calgary Family Law Lawyer Charles Fair

Canada’s family laws are governed by federal and provincial laws. Family lawyers represent their clients in court and negotiate disputes between spouses and family members. Charles Fair has been practicing Divorce and Family Law for nearly 30 years.

Fair Legal handles all types of custody and family legal matters to protect your children, property and you. Contact us at 1 (403) 239-2249 to schedule a confidential meeting with a member of our legal team.