Who Pays Child Support in Ontario?
The Details of Ontario Child Support
Child Custody and Access
When parents are going through a separation or divorce, some of the most difficult decisions that need to be made are those concerning the children. Who will the children live with? Who will have custody? What happens if the parents cannot agree?
Legal Aspects of Child Custody and Access
Ontario family law recognizes that children often benefit from having maximum contact with both parents. Where appropriate, parents should share in the parenting decisions related to their children, as well as the time spent with their children.
In some circumstances, parents wish to maintain joint custody and make decisions regarding their children jointly, but decide that it would be in the child’s best interests to have the child live primarily with one parent.
In these situations, the parent with whom the child does not reside most of the time can foster her or his relationship with the child through “access.” This term simply refers to the time that the other parent will spend with their child.
Where parents can agree on how to split their time with their child or children, this arrangement can be as detailed or as open-ended as the parties agree. For example, parents may wish to outline which holidays are spent with whom in advance, so that the child does not feel any guilt about having to “decide” the issue when it arises.
This can also prevent any dispute as to what is an equitable sharing of the child’s time. Where parents cannot agree on the major decisions involving their children or on how the child’s time should be divided, a court can make an order to provide the parties with a solution.
Different Types of Custody
If each parent has the child at least 40% of the time, the Child Support Guidelines say there is “shared custody.” This refers only to the residential agreement, and should not be confused with the term “joint custody,” which refers to the parents’ joint right to make major decisions for the child. When there is shared custody, the amount of support paid to the parent with custody might be less than the amount set out in the table. Therefore, the term “shared custody” only refers to the amount of time spent with the child.
There is no formula in the Guidelines for determining how much time is spent with each parent in a shared parenting scenario. The onus is on the parent who claims they have shared custody to show that the child is with him or her at least 40% of the time.
If the judge finds that the child spends at least 40% of their time with the parent who pays support, the Guideline table amount will no longer apply. Instead, the judge will look at the gross income of each parent to determine the child support amount, as well as of time the child spends with each parent. This takes into account the reality of a shared parenting arrangement, because the more time the child spends with each parent, the more each parent is expected to provide basic items for the child, such as pajamas, toys, clothes, and bedding. Judges must consider these extra costs when they set support amounts for shared custody.
Sometimes when parents with more than one child separate, one or more of the children will live with each parent. When this happens, child support depends on the income of both parents. How much support each parent would owe for any children living with the other parent is figured out according to the Guidelines. The parent who owes the higher amount must pay the difference between the two amounts to the other parent.
Take the example of one parent with custody of two children and an income of $25,000, and the other parent with custody of one child and an income of $45,000. According to the table, the parent with the lower income owes the other parent $211 a month in support for the one child who lives with that other parent. The parent with the higher income owes the other parent $680 a month in support for the other two children. When you subtract $211 from $680, the higher-income parent owes the other parent $469 a month in child support.
When a parent has sole custody of a child, this means that they are solely authorized to make major decisions for the child, to the exclusion of the other parent. In these cases, it makes sense that the child’s primary residence will be with the parent having sole custody. Therefore, to determine how much child support is to be paid, the courts are required to look to the Child Support Guidelines, which outline a table amount that is based on the payor parent’s income. The recipient parent’s income is irrelevant to this determination, as Child Support is the right of the child to receive. In some cases, the recipient parent’s income may be relevant, if there are special or extraordinary expenses to be shared above the Table amount. Since the Table amount is meant to cover only regular day to day expenses, such as food, clothing and shelter, any additional, or extraordinary expenses, are generally shared between both parents, proportionate to their incomes. Some examples of these expenses include daycare, dance lessons, and medical expenses not covered under a medical plan.
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 us at RussellAlexander.com