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Mother of disabled adult son brings constitutional challenge for child support

A parent's financial responsibility for his or her child does not end when a marriage ends. Child support payments for dependent children are a requirement after a divorce in Alberta. The rules are different, however, if the parents of the child or children were never married. Support provisions for children of unmarried parents are governed by different legislation in each province. One woman is fighting to become an exception to those rules.

A single mother, age 47, has been raising her son alone since his birth 21 years ago. Her son suffers from a debilitating condition that causes him anxiety and to behave in an obsessive compulsive manner. He functions at a grade 2 level, and his doctor says he will need to be supported and supervised for the rest of his life.

Because of his age, there are not many publicly-funded programs to assist the young man, and his biological father is now saying he is no longer obligated to pay child support. The boy's mother and father were never married, and the father claims the child is a product of a one-night stand. Having been enrolled in school from age 18 to 21, the boy was eligible for child support payments despite being an adult. The father argues he rarely attended school, and is now seeking to be paid back the money he provided during those years. His mother counters that the child support provisions Divorce Act, which by definition applies only to married parents, her son would still be eligible for support as a disabled adult child, and that it is unconstitutional to deny support to a disabled child because his or her parents were never married.

The outcome of this trial may have repercussions across the country, including here in Alberta, if it goes in the mother's favour. This sort of dispute, or any other child support issue, is the kind of matter that may best be dealt with by first speaking with a lawyer experienced in family law. With his or her assistance, it may be possible to reach a positive resolution.

Source:, "Brampton mother seeks child support for disabled adult son", Nov. 19, 2016

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