There are many aspects of a separation or divorce, and even more so when children are involved. Child support is often a contentious issue. Parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support to their children. Child support can be confirmed by an agreement or court order that outlines the quantum and frequency of the child support payments.
In 1997, the Child Support Guidelines came in effect to help determine child support obligations throughout Canada. Each province has their own set of Guidelines. The Child Support Guidelines are objective, with the goals of establishing a fair standard of support for all children, to reduce conflict by making the amount of support easier to determine, to improve the efficiency of the legal process and encourage settlement, and to ensure the consistent treatment of children and parents who are similar circumstances.
The Child Support Guidelines will determine the amount of support owed by the payor parent, taking into consideration the gross income from all sources of the payor parent. The amount is also dictated by which province the payor parent lives in, as each province has their own Guidelines. Consult with a family lawyer in your jurisdiction to see what the table requirements are in the province you are ordinarily resident in. If the payor parent lives outside of Canada, then the Guidelines of the province where the child lives will be used.
The amount of time a child spends with each parent can be a factor when trying to determine the amount of child support owed. If each parent has the child in their care at least 40% of the time, then both parents income could be used to determine child support and a set-off amount of child support may be appropriate. In these shared custody situations, the additional costs of the parenting arrangements must also be considered, and the Child Support Guidelines may not apply.
The amount of support can be varied from to time to time to reflect a change in the payor’s income.
As a general rule, the court has very little discretion when applying the Guidelines. As previously stated, the objectives of the Guidelines are to provide efficiency and consistency. However there are certain circumstances where the court may decide to use its discretion to deviate from the Guidelines. A court may consider a different amount of child support if one of the following situations applies:
- A child is over the age of majority (18 years);
- A payor’s income is over $150,000 annually;
- A payor is the child’s step-parent;
- If there is a shared or split custody situation;
- If the payor parent makes a successful claim of undue hardship;
- On consent of the parties, if other special provisions have been made to support the children.
We strongly suggest that you consult with a family law lawyer if any of these situations applies to you.
Family Responsibility Office
In Ontario, the Family Responsibility Office automatically handles child support payments, unless the parties agree to withdraw their court order from being enforced by the Family Responsibility Office. Parents who have a written agreement regarding support can also enroll in the program. There are similar agencies in each province throughout Canada.
The purpose of the Family Responsibility Office is to ensure that support is collected, accounted for and paid to the recipient parent. The Family Responsibility Office does not determine the amount of support and cannot change the amount of support. Its duty is to enforce the support owed under the most current order or agreement.
If child support is not being paid and arrears are accumulated, the Family Responsibility Office has the authority to pursue the payor parent, and has the right to suspend passports and driver’s licenses, garnish a payor’s wages, place a lien on their property, and even request that the payor receive a jail sentence.
Parental separation is a difficult time for children. Their lives are drastically changing and perhaps their lifestyles as well. Parents should make every attempt to disrupt their children’s lives as little as possible and ensure that a child support system is in place as soon as possible.