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Child Support

Child SupportA. Do I have to pay child support?

Ontario’s Family Law Act and the Federal Divorce Act both state that every parent has an obligation to support his or her child, to the extent that he or she is capable.

The parent who has primary care and residence of the child typically incurs most expenses associated with raising the child, and the other parent has an obligation to assist with those expenses. Accordingly, the parent who does not have primary residence of the child has an obligation to pay child support to the other parent. The parent who pays child support is referred to as the “payor” while the other is the “recipient”.

B. How do I calculate child support?

Child support is typically based on the Child Support Guidelines, which consists of (1) the table amount and (2) special and extraordinary expenses.

Table Amount

The child support “table” stipulates how much child support is payable based on the payor’s gross income, and the number of children that must be supported. A child support calculator can be found here: http://canada.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/child-enfant/look-rech.asp

Special and Extraordinary Expenses

Special and extraordinary expenses are defined as:

  • necessary because they are in the child’s best interests; and
  • reasonable given the means of the parents and the child and in light of the family’s spending patterns before the separation.

The following are examples of special and extraordinary expenses:

  • Daycare expenses;
  • Extracurricular/sporting expenses;
  • The children’s healthcare needs not covered by insurance; and
  • Post-secondary education expenses.

Generally, parents share the costs of these expenses in proportion to their respective incomes, but other arrangements are available if agreed to or court ordered.

C. How is child support supposed to be paid out?

If child support is court ordered, it is automatically filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which acts a neutral collection agency. FRO collects payments from the payor and provides it to the recipient. Prior to court proceedings, parents often make informal support payments. Caution should be had in making these arrangements, and especially when making these payments in cash.

D. What is child support supposed to cover?

Child support is intended to assist with the child’s living expenses, including food, diapers, school supplies, and personal care items. It should also contribute to the extra cost one parent incurs to provide accommodations for a child. For example, one parent may have to pay for a two-bedroom apartment rather than a studio apartment once the child is born.

E. What if the other parent is using child support for personal expenses?

Neither FRO nor the court will monitor what the recipient is spending the child support payments on.

F. Can I prevent the payor from seeing our child if he or she has not made support payments?

No. Child support and access/parenting time are two separate issues, neither of which influences the other. The custodial parent has no right to limit the right of an access parent for failing to pay support. Likewise, the support payor has no right to halt child support payments if the custodial parent is preventing him or her from exercising access.

G. When does child support end?

Generally, a parent’s obligation to support his or her child ends when the child turns 18 or withdraws from the parents’ charge. However, support obligations often continue if the child is over the age of 18 and enrolled in a full-time program of education, even when the child is not necessarily enrolled in a full-time course load.

Moreover, child support obligations generally extinguish after the child has completed his or her first post-secondary degree, but courts have occasionally extended the support obligations throughout the child’s second and third degrees as well.

H. What happens if the payor’s income changes following a child support order?

People often make career changes or suffer injuries that prevent them from working after an order for child support is imposed, which affects their corresponding child support obligations. A child support order is subject to variation, through a “motion to change”. To be successful, the moving party must demonstrate a “material change in circumstances”.

In some cases, support payors deliberately quit their jobs or earn less to lower their child support obligations. In these situations, the court can “impute” an income to the payor. The judge assigns an income to the payor, and grounds his or her child support obligation accordingly. For example, if a payor is an experienced carpenter who can earn $80,000.00 per year, but claims to earn $40,000.00, the court may impute his income at $80,000.00.

I. What if the payor parent refuses to pay child support?

The Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act allows FRO to sanction the payor for defaulting on his or her support payments. The defaulting parent may be subject to the following:

  • Garnishing wages directly from the payor’s employer;
  • Garnishing 50% of federal periodic payments such as CPP, OAS, and Employment Insurance;
  • Garnishing the payor’s bank accounts, investments accounts, RRSP’s, etc.;
  • Suspending the payor’s driver’s license;
  • Suspending the payor’s passport;
  • Etc.
J. Do I need to hire a child support lawyer?

Child support can raise complicated issues. For example, if you are considering making a career change, you will need to consider the implications on your annual income and corresponding child support obligations. Negotiating and calculating special or extraordinary expenses can become increasingly difficult and complex. Split/shared custody arrangements give rise to different child support obligations. Even if your child is over the age of majority, your obligation to support him or her might not extinguish. A child support obligation might arise if you are acting as a step-parent. You might even be paying too much child support.

Our lawyers deal extensively with questions of child support and can advise you according to your specific circumstances. We will strive to obtain a result that is best for you child, without making you feel taken advantage of by the opposing party.