There is a lot of misinformation floating around about child support. This includes questions around who pays the child support, how much, and what the consequences may be for not paying it. It is normal to have questions and feel a bit lost when figuring out the child support system. You want to do the right thing, but you might not be sure what the “right thing” to do is.
The truth is that everyone’s situation may be slightly different. Although they mean well, relying on the advice of friends or family may not be your best option. What worked for them, may not apply in your situation.
The goal of this guide is to provide some basic facts and resources on child support in Ontario to clear up confusion and get you headed in the right direction.
What is Child Support
Whether parents live together or not, the financial responsibility they have to their children legally continues. Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the benefit of a child.
Who Is Responsible for Paying Child Support
Under the definition of “parent” used by the Family Law Act of Ontario, the following people may be required to pay child support:
- Adoptive parents
- Step-parents and others with a parent-like relationship with the child
In some cases, the amount payable and who pays is determined by a written agreement between the parents, through the use of tools such as a separation agreement, and in others, it is decided by the court.
How Much is Child Support in Ontario
Ontario is one of seven provinces that follow federal child support guidelines. The amount of child support each parent is responsible for depends on several factors, some of which include parenting time, yearly salary, and the needs of the child. There is standard child support, which is determined through a standardized calculation, as well as special or extraordinary expenses, which may be shared differently between the parties depending on the circumstances of the parties and the child.
To figure out how much child support is payable (and who has to pay child support), you can use the Canadian Department of Justice’s step-by-step guide to federal child support. A Child Support Tool is also available to keep track of details as you work through the guide. Child support is determined by a mathematical calculation and is regulated as such through the use of a “Table Child Support” system.
Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario
The Family Responsibility Office or “FRO” is the Ontario government agency responsible for enforcing child support orders or registered domestic agreements.
If you have been ordered by the court to pay child support, FRO will automatically become involved. However, if you have signed an agreement or contract regarding child support outside the courts, you must register it with FRO if you want their help to enforce or monitor payments. You may also waive FRO’s involvement through a consent between yourself and the other parent(s), and choose to regulate child support yourself.
When child support is paid through the FRO office there is a clear record of payment available to both sides. If you are not using FRO, you may employ e-transfers, bank transfers or cheques to pay child support, to maintain a clear record of payments.
What happens if you fall behind on support payments?
FRO suggests that if you fall behind, you should contact their office right away to work out a repayment plan. They will work with you to come up with a plan allowing you to make repayments while continuing to pay ongoing support. By voluntarily working out a plan with FRO, you could be able to avoid enforcement actions.
What happens if you continually do not meet your support payments?
If support payment responsibilities are not met, FRO has the legal authority to take enforcement action.
Among other consequences, enforcement action can include:
- garnishing your bank account
- garnishing your joint bank account (up to 50% of the balance)
- deducting support from federal government payments
- reporting you to the credit bureau
- suspending your driver’s licence
FRO can also send you a notice of default hearing in family court. If the matter gets to the point of a hearing and is still unresolved, the parent who has not paid may face harsher consequences, including possible jail time. You may want a lawyer to represent you, but you are not obligated to have one.
How To Lower Child Support Payments in Ontario
Many people think that once the amount of child support payable is set, that is the end of the matter. The reality is, child support responsibilities can change over time as circumstances change.
Possible reasons for reducing child support payments in Ontario are:
- Change in income level;
- A former spouse remarries; or
- The child finishes education or gets a job after turning 18.
If the child support is being paid due to a court order, a motion to change form must be filed with the court.
If child support is being paid according to a domestic agreement or contract, a new agreement should be negotiated and filed with the court.
When Does Child Support End in Ontario
In Ontario, child support usually (but not always) ends when a child reaches age 18.
Child support payments can end earlier than age 18 if:
- The dependent minor gets married; or
- They are 16 or older and have voluntarily become independent.
There are times when obligations do not automatically end when your child reaches age 18. If an adult child is independent, they will not be entitled to child support. However, if an adult child is dependent due to an illness, disability, or other cause, then they may continue to be entitled to child support.
For example, if your adult child attends a post-secondary school, and you have historically been paying their tuition and living expenses, they may continue to be entitled to support.
As with most legal matters, the laws around child support are full of exceptions that can affect standard child support regulations. These exceptions can make the law hard to navigate alone, but the intention behind them is to put children first, level the playing field, and account for situations where the standard rules don’t make sense.
If you have questions about your rights or responsibilities in relation to child support, RBHF Professional Corporation is your source for the answers. Call us at 613-546-2147 or contact us for assistance with your specific issue.