Can you sue your parents for support?

As long as your parents are together and you continue to live with them, you're not entitled to go to court to ask for child support because the court will assume that your needs are being met. In fact, section 215 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for your parents not to provide you with the "necessaries of life." (The "necessaries of life" are enough food, shelter, and clothing to preserve and enjoy life.)

If your parents are separated and you're living with one of them, the parent you're living with is responsible for applying for child support from your other parent. If you're under 19, you're considered to be under a legal "disability" and you can't start legal proceedings without the help of a "litigation guardian" (formerly known as a "guardian ad litem"). But the court would probably refuse to appoint you a litigation guardian because the parent you're living with is responsible for applying for support.

If you're over 19, but still qualify as a "child" (either because you have a disability and can't work to support yourself or because you're enrolled in a full-time post-secondary educational program), you can apply for child support. A child who is over 19 can start a legal action without a litigation guardian.

If this is your situation, you'll have to prove that you're in financial need. A support order won't automatically be made. If you have a job or are married or in a common-law relationship, you'll find it difficult to succeed in such a court application.

If you're younger than 19 and not living with your parents, your parents are responsible for paying for your support, but, if they don't pay it, you'll have to start an court action to claim child support and you'll have to be represented by a litigation guardian. But even if the court is willing to appoint a litigation guardian for you, getting a child support order isn't automatic.

There are some cases where children under 19 haven't been entitled to receive child support. Usually, this happens when a child has run away from home, has found a job, and is living independently of his or her parents. A financially self-sufficient child who has left his or her parents' home may not be entitled to receive child support payments from them, especially if the child has refused to have a relationship with his or her parents.

If you're thinking about making a claim for child support, speak to a lawyer first, as the process can be quite complicated. For information about how to find a lawyer or get legal aid, see Who can help?

Tip: For more information on children's rights, parental responsibilities, and available resources, see the following: Legal Rights for Youth, Rights of Children and Teens, LSLAP Manual Family Law chapter (page 3–59), and/or Family Justice Centres (Attorney General ministry).

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