Child Support Entitlement – How Does Social Assistance Factor In?
Ontario has two social assistance programs that help eligible residents who are in financial need. They are:
• The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP); and
• Ontario Works.
As the name suggests, the ODSP helps those with disabilities, while Ontario Works helps those with temporary financial need. Both programs can provide recipients with financial and employment assistance, and are often used by those who have experienced some sort of setback – and unexpected disability (in the case of ODSP) or a temporary decline in financial resources (in the case of Ontario Works).
The question sometimes arises as to how a parent’s entitlement to child support plays into the whole equation of receiving benefits under either of these two social assistance programs.
The answer is simple: Whether for new applicants and those already receiving benefits, both the ODSP and Ontario Works programs require that the person make reasonable efforts to get financial support from the child’s other parent. (This remains the case even if the two parents were never married, or if the other parent is not really the child’s biological or adoptive parent, but has merely demonstrated a settled intention to treat the chid as if it were his or her own).
A parent in receipt of ODSP or Ontario Works benefits who does not make reasonable efforts to pursue child support to which they are entitled may find that their benefits are reduced or cut off entirely.
Note that eligibility for social assistance does not depend on the actual receipt of the child support payments, but rather the efforts that are being made to obtain that support. These include attending court appointments and providing the ODSP or the Ontario Works office with current information, including information about the other parent. Also, in some situations the requirement for the recipient parent to actively pursue support may be waived, for example where the other parent is deceased where his or her whereabouts are unknown, or where the child’s paternity cannot be determined. There are also certain specified situations in which the pursuit of support can be temporarily waived or deferred.
In any case, the intention behind these policies is that the ODSP or Ontario Works benefit recipient continues to be eligible only as long as he or she is making efforts to obtain the child support payments to which they are entitled. That principle seems fair enough.
A little more contentious is the policy that child support payments, once received, are typically deducted from social assistance benefits (although there are exceptions). As this article illustrates, there have been calls from the public to have that approach changed.
What are your thoughts? Should receiving ODSP or Ontario Works benefits be contingent on pursuing child support? And should child support be deducted from social assistance benefits?
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit our main site.