How much should kids contribute towards education costs?

The Child Support Guidelines require a payor parent to pay his or her proportionate share of extraordinary expenses. One of these expenses is postsecondary education.

The guidelines also require that the court consider the means of the child to contribute towards the costs of his or her education, as well as the reasonable expectations of the child as to whether they were going to be required to contribute significantly towards this cost or not. That expectation will vary from family to family.

In the 2014 case of Pothakos v. Denson, a father was attempting to lower his child support payments. He argued that his daughter should be expected to pay 25% of her education costs. The court found that, pre-separation, the family lived a very comfortable lifestyle and the parents had led the child to believe that her education would be paid for (more or less, entirely by them).

In considering the means of the child (meaning both income earned during the school year and breaks, as well as any capital property the child has access to), the court decided that the RESPs which had been funded by the child’s grandmother should be taken into account as part of the child’s contribution towards her education, as well as the child’s scholarship. Taken together, these 2 items did not amount to 25% of the cost, however.

Be careful about assuming that a court will require a child to hold down a part time job during the school
year- that may not be a reasonable assumption if there was never an expectation on the part of the
parents that this was going to be required. Particularly in an affluent family, expectations about working part
time while going to school may not be the norm.

On the other hand, for families of more limited means, it might be a fair expectation that the child be required to either obtain a certain amount of student loans to fund their education, or else work part time through the school year. Additionally, it might not be a reasonable expectation that a child coming from a family of modest means expect to attend school away from home.