All About Estates

Does an Adult Child have an Obligation to Support their Parent?

*This blog was researched and authored by Jonathon Vander Zee, who is an articling student with de VRIES LITIGATION LLP. 

There are many different kinds of support that can be sought as relief in a legal proceeding, such as child support, spousal support, and dependant’s support. These types of support are frequently litigated and can often be the central issue in a family or estate dispute. One of the lesser known and rarely sought after types of support is what is referred to as “reverse child support” or “parental support”. Section 32 of the Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3 (FLA) states:

Every child who is not a minor has an obligation to provide support, in accordance with need, for his or her parent who has cared for or provided support for the child, to the extent that the child is capable of doing so.

This form of parental support requires an adult child to provide support to their parent so long as certain conditions are met. The Court in Dragulin v. Dragulin, 1998 CanLII 19365 sets out a three-part test as it relates to the application of section 32 of the FLA:

  1. The need of the parent;
  2. Whether the parent provided care or support for the child; and
  3. The capacity of the child to support the parent.

While there are very few cases that deal with this type of support as compared to other areas of support, the Court has nevertheless developed key principles that should be considered alongside each of these three main requirements:

  1. The Need of the Parent

In Dragulin, the Court cited section 33(9)(f) of the FLA, which requires the Court to consider the dependant’s needs, while having regard to the previous standard of living when the parties resided together. The parent seeking support in Dragulin proposed that the quantum of support granted by the Court should take into account the fact that the daughter had won the lottery for $1 million. The Court clarified that reading sections 32 and 33(9)(f) of the FLA together makes it clear that the claim for support must be based on needs, not wants, and that the parent could not seek to increase their standard of living simply because of their daughter’s good fortune.[1] The needs must also be personal to the parent seeking support, and cannot include another person, such as a second wife who was not around during the childhood of the now adult child.

  1. Whether the Parent has Provided Care or Support for the Child

One of the key considerations at this stage is the wording of section 32. It requires that a parent has cared for or provided support for the child. The Court in both Godwin v. Bolsco, 1993 CanLII 9312 and Dragulin interpreted the wording of s. 32 literally, and affirmed that a parent must only have provided either care or support for the child, not necessarily both.

The Court in both Godwin and Dragulin further concluded that any previous misconduct of the parent towards the child should not be taken into consideration when awarding support, and set a low bar for satisfying this requirement.[2] In contrast, Justice Gregson in the more recent case of L.F.D. v. X., 2016 ONCJ 878 rejected this approach, and stated that an “argument can be made that if parenting behaviours are relevant with regard to spousal support it seems only logical that parental conduct must be relevant when the child is being asked to provide support to his or her parent.”[3] Justice Gregson additionally held that any form of child abuse or neglect committed against the child should be considered when determining whether a parent adequately cared for or provided support for their child. Justice Gregson found that in the case before the Court, although the parent did provide basic and even some luxury needs to the child, the evidence of “chronic exposure to physical and emotional abuse and neglect” experienced by the child as a result of the parent’s actions did not meet the threshold of care or support as intended by s. 32. The parent’s claim for support was dismissed.

  1. The Capacity of the Child to Support the Parent

There is little Ontario case law on this final point because most often, there is no dispute that the child would be able to support their parent if ordered by the Court to do so. Generally, an adult child will be found to be capable of providing support to their parent if they have an excess of funds after tending to all of their own financial needs first. It follows that adult children are not required to sell any of their own assets in order to create funds to provide parental support.[4]

[1] Dragulin at para 20.

[2] Dragulin at para 14; Godwin at paras 63-66.

[3] L.F.D. at para 320.

[4] Daskalov v Daskalov, [2007] OJ No 3428 (Ont SCJ).

About Joanna Lindenberg
Joanna is an experienced estates, trusts, and capacity litigator at de VRIES LITIGATION LLP. Joanna obtained her law degree from the Shulich School of Law at Dalhousie University after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at McGill University. Following her call to the Ontario Bar in June 2011, Joanna obtained a Masters of Law at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), specializing in international and comparative law. Joanna's current practice focuses on, in part, will challenges, dependant’s support, capacity, and power of attorney disputes. More of Joanna's blogs can be found at


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