What rights and responsibilities do parents and adult children have to each other?

This is a very broad question and one that can be answered from a variety of perspectives – legal, moral, etc. However, I will try and provide a narrowly focused, family-law-based answer to your question. As a caveat, when I refer to ‘adult children’, I refer only to those children that are beyond the age of majority and who do not suffer from a condition that prevents them from withdrawing from their parental charge. There are different rights and obligations that arise when a child is over 18 but is prevented from being independent as a result of a disability or enrollment in a full-time education course. If you are (or are a parent of) a person over the age of 18 who continues to require support because of education or disability, you should speak to a good family lawyer who can explain how your particular situation can affect your legal rights. To understand why you should speak to a lawyer, check out this webpage on child support for children over 18 years old.

When a child reaches the age of majority, the bulk of the parental rights and obligations viz their children no longer apply. There is no automatic entitlement to child support, although it can continue in the situations listed above. A parent no longer has custody of a child past 18 (unless the child lacks mental capacity and must remain in a parent’s care, although that is now under substitute decision-maker rather than custody/access laws), and likewise, a parent cannot exercise ‘access’ to a person over 18 as courts lose their jurisdiction to make custody and access orders for a person over 18. At this point, the child is free to spend their time with whichever parent they choose.

With respect to the rights and obligations of children viz their parents, there are a few. Under section 32 of the Family Law Act, children who are over the age of majority (and who have withdrawn from parental care) have an obligation to support their parents where necessary. However, there are two conditions attached – the parent must have ‘cared or provided support’ to the child, and the support is limited to the extent to which the child can provide. This is a rarely litigated section of the Family Law Act, but there have been historical cases where impecunious parents have received orders for support from their grown children.

While they are not technically ‘rights and responsibilities’, the common law has developed rules governing the relationship between parents and adult children in some situations. One of the most common is the transfer of property. When an adult transfers property to a minor child, the transfer is presumed to be a gift, unless contrary evidence can be proven. When an adult transfers property to an adult child, it is presumed to be a loan and that the child will pay the parent back. These issues commonly arise in the context of property division, where an adult spouse owns property jointly with their parent or the parent has transferred the property to their child, which may form part of that spouse’s net family property. Many people enter into these transfers with their ageing parents as an estate planning measure and do not realize the family law implications. If you or your spouse owns property with their parent (or adult child), you should speak to a family law lawyer about how to best protect your rights.

To advance your family law rights, contact Certified Specialist in Family Law (and author of the book to the left), John Schuman, by emailing him, calling 416-446-5847, or using the contact form below. We answer all inquiries promptly and we can arrange for you to come in quickly for a consultation (charged at a reduced hourly rate).

To learn even more about the rights of parents and children, get a copy of this best-selling easy-to-understand book on the basics of Ontario Family Law as a paperback, or as a $9.99 e-book for KindleKobo, or iPad/iPhone/Mac. You may also want to listen to this podcast or watch this video. You can also use the search on the right to find lots more articles about child support, children’s rights, marriage and divorce. 

Many thousands of people get family law assistance from this website every day. If you have found this page useful, please share it on your social network using the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest buttons at the bottom of the page.

John Schuman Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law book cover

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of parenting cases (parenting time and decision making), child support, spousal support, property division, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But to understand how the law works precisely in your situation, it is always best to speak to a good Family Law Lawyer.

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