Legal Obligation Upon Adult Children For Parental Support and Maintenance

In Ontario, every adult child (i.e. not a minor) has an obligation to provide support, in accordance with need, for his or her parent(s) who has cared for or provided support for that child, to the extent that the adult child is capable of doing so.
Yet, applications for parent's support made against adult children are extremely rare. This is likely due to the fact that few destitute or financially needy parents are aware that their adult children have a legal obligation to provide for their needs. 
Under Ontario law, any parent who has need can make an application for a parent’s support. The parent need not be destitute for the application to succeed.
The legal requirements are:
    Did the parent in need provide support to the adult child or children when they were young?
    Did the parent provide care?
    Is the parent in financial need?
As to what would be deem as amounting to support by a parent to children, the courts will consider the following:
- did the parent teach the child/children to provide for themselves and their education, and to care for their household environment;
- did the parent give them values, such as Christian concepts, a desire for self-improvement, ways of protecting themselves from the world, and respect for parents (when they were growing up);
- did the parent take steps to interest the children in activities to help their development;
- did the parent tutor the children in English or some other language when they started school;
- did the parent take steps, such as getting family counselling to try to work on any problems the children had; and
- did the parent take in any foster children as companions to the children when they were little.
In determining whether the parent is in actual financial need, the court will consider: 
- Whether the parent will have a difficult time finding employment (other than the type he/she presently has, if any) because of age;
- lack of experience in the work force;
- the parent's personality and the possibility that he/she may not be "a swift learner"; 
- whether the parents' present living situation is precarious;
- whether the parent's current employer, if any, will continue require his/her services much longer;
- whether the parent, on losing any employment could find an equivalent position, that includes a residence (if one was provided with the present employer);
- whether the parent could subsist alone on his/her pension;
- whether the parents financial situation is one where a functioning family with children would willingly support an aging parent;
- whether the parent has health needs that he/she cannot afford; and
- whether the parent's needs relate to his/her being out of the work force for many years because of time spent raising the children.
Notes: the courts will not necessarily penalised a parent who makes a support application merely because he/she made an unwise investment choice.: Godwin v. Bolsco, 1993 CanLII 9312 (ON CJ). 
Where adult children say they have concern that their parent(s) would give away or misuse the money they will need to provide good evidence to support that theory. In any case, the court will review of parent applicant's financial statement to see if they are living frugally and doing their best to make ends meet. 
A court may, on application by a parent or on behalf of a parent, order an adult child to provide support for his or her parent and determine the amount of support. Also, an application for an order for the support has no time limit under the Ontario Limitations Act, 2002. This means that an adult child can always be ordered to provide support for a parent in need. 
If you are a parent (or know of a parent who is) in need of financial support from an adult child, please contact us using the following email address:
IMPORTANT NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist (specific) advice should be sought about your particular circumstances.