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10 Things You Should Know About Ontario Child Support in 2019

One of our most popular articles 10 Things You Should Know About Child Support was published nearly ten years ago in 2010. We challenged ourselves to provide deeper information for each topic. Family law can be a very tricky terrain to navigate. Understanding one’s responsibilities with respect to child support raises a lot of questions for parents and guardians, which we hope to outline and answer here.

father and child hands

  1. What is Child Support?

All dependent children have a legal right to be financially supported by their parents. When parents live together with their children, they support the children together. Parents who do not live together often have an arrangement in which a child lives most of the time with one parent. That parent is said to have custody of the child.

This arrangement can be written in a separation agreement or court order (sometimes called legal custody), or may occur without a written agreement or court order (sometimes called “de facto” custody). Either way, the parent with custody has the main responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child and has most of the ordinary expenses of raising the child. The other parent should help with those expenses by paying money to the parent with custody. This is called child support.

Learn more about Child Support:

Common Questions About Child Support in Ontario

Child Support in Ontario: An Introduction to Child Custody

Introduction to Ontario Child Custody: How do Decisions Get Made

Child Support 101: The Details of Ontario Child Support

 

  1. Parents and Guardians

Parent or guardian can be the birth mother or father, an adoptive parent, or step-parent, who has been married to someone with children, or who has lived as a couple with someone with children, and who has shown an intention to treat those children as members of his or her own family.

Learn more about Parents and Family Law:

Ontario Custody and Access: Who is Entitled to the Child?

Ontario Child Custody: Who is Considered a Parent?

When a Non-Parent Wants Custody of a Child

 

  1. Who Pays Child Support

Child Support is the legal responsibility of parents or guardians to provide financial support for all dependent children. When there is an arrangement in which a child lives primarily with one of the parents or guardians they are assumed to have “custody” of that child and bear the day-to-day expenses of raising them; however, they may be entitled to receive child support from the other parent. This entitlement to child support may continue even if the custodial parent remarries or starts to live with someone else.

The amount of child support is usually set according to the Child Support Guidelines. More than one parent can have a legal duty to pay child support for the same child. For example, if a parent with custody of a child separates from their marriage or common-law spouse who is not the child’s birth parent, both the child’s other birth parent and the step-parent may have a legal duty to pay child support.

Learn more about the legal responsibility to pay child support:

Who Pays Child Support in Ontario?

Top Four Questions About the Children of Common-Law Relationships

Can an Ontario Support Agreement or Order be changed?

Business Owners Beware: Court Can Force Your Hand to Compel Appropriate Child Support

Can a Parent Replace Child Support…with Gifts?

 

  1. When to Apply for Child Support

Applying for child support is usually done right after separation or when applying for a divorce but can be applied for at any time thereafter. It is usually best to deal with these matters as early as possible and when sorting out the custody of the children. In the beginning, parents and guardians may feel they don’t want or need the support but as time goes on and the expense of raising children increases the need may arise at which time they can apply, even after divorce or settlement of matters arising from the separation have been dealt with. Under some circumstances the court has awarded custody and support while the parents or guardians are living separately under one roof but the court usually doesn’t make an order until one of the parents or guardians have physically moved out.

If the social and emotional relationship between the step-parent and child have disbanded for a lengthy period of time, it is less likely that the court would order the step-parent to pay child support.

Learn more about application:

• Video: When Can a Parent Apply for Child Support?

• Video: When do the Child Support Guidelines Apply?

 

  1. When Does Child Support End?

Child support must be paid if a child is still a dependant and they are under 18 years of age.  However, the following circumstances and criteria can terminate responsibility of child support:

  • the child has married;
  • they are 16 or older and have voluntarily left parental control;

There are situations where even if the child has turned 18 years of age they are still considered a dependant. For instance, any situation where the child is unable to support themselves due to any of the following:

  • they have a disability or illness;
  • they are attending school full-time;

In a situation where the child is 18 years of age or older and is living away from home because they are attending school, child support may have to be paid if the child’s primary residence is with the parent with custody. This circumstance usually requires child support to be paid until the child is 22 or receives a post-secondary degree or diploma.

In some of these situations, a judge can order the child support to continue past this point. If the judge decides child support must be paid past the age of 18, they will take into consideration how much the child has in earnings or income before determining the amount of child support to be paid.

Learn more about criteria for child support:

Does the Age of the Child Affect Child Support in Ontario?

What Happens if Kids Skip School?

How Long Does Child Support Continue in Ontario?

 

  1. What is a Child Support Agreement?

How the child support is paid and how much is paid, is determined with a Support Agreement. There are three different ways parents can obtain a Support Agreement such as:

  • In a situation where the parents can work together to form a Support Agreement, it is encouraged that they look at the Child Support Guidelines to find out the amount a judge would likely order. The paying parent will have to give complete and true information about their income. It is suggested that one parent should have a lawyer put the agreement in writing and that the other parent get a different lawyer to review it, before signing it. This way, both parents will know the agreement says what they intended it to say, while also protecting their rights and their children’s rights.
  • If the parents need help working out a Support Agreement then they can see a mediator who will help them come to an agreement they both can accept. The mediator is an unbiased party that does not offer legal advice. In this situation it is still recommended that the agreement is reviewed by both parent’s independent lawyers before signing, and filing with the court.
  • If the parents cannot agree on a Support Agreement then both parents should hire their own lawyer. The lawyers can then attempt to negotiate support terms that both parents can agree upon. If no agreement can be reached then they will go to court and ask a judge to determine support. The judge will then make a court order that states how much child support is required to be paid.

Learn more about paying for child support:

• Video: Ontario Child Support: How do you arrange for Support to be paid?

• Video: How Base Child Support is calculated

• Video: How are Child Payments Taxed?

 

  1. Access When Child Support is Not Paid

Even if child support is not paid, a parent should not keep the child from seeing their other parent. It is assumed that it is generally good for a child to have a relationship with both parents. Keeping the child from seeing their other parent is considered punishing the child and the law will not punish the child due to their parent failing to pay child support.

Parents who do not have custody are usually given “access” to the children so that they can spend time together and maintain their relationship. The only way access can be refused or limited, is if the parent’s behaviour is likely to cause harm to the child, or harm the child in anyway. The courts will not refuse access because the parent fails to pay child support, and the parent with custody should not refuse access for this reason either. There are ways to obtain child support from a non-paying parent without refusing access.

Learn more about Child Support and Access:

Can parents be kept from seeing their children if they do not pay their child support?

Child Support and Access Rights in Ontario

 

  1. Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario

Enforcement in Ontario is done through a provincial government office called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The court automatically files all support orders made after July 1, 1987 with the FRO.

The parent who is to pay support is told to make all support payments to the FRO. When the FRO receives a payment, it sends a cheque to the parent with custody, or deposits the money directly into that parent’s bank account. It only does this after it has received the money from the paying parent.

If a payment is missed, the FRO takes action to enforce the order or agreement. To do this, the FRO needs as much up-to-date information about the paying parent as possible. The information about the paying parent goes on a Support Deduction Information Form which is available at the court. This form is given to the FRO along with the support order or agreement. It is important to update this form whenever the information changes.

Learn more about child support enforcement:

• Video: Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario

The Role and Power of FRO

 

  1. How Can FRO Collect Child Support?

The FRO (Family Responsibility Office) uses different ways to get the payments that are owed. It can:

  • get the payments directly from the parent who is supposed to pay support
  • have the payments automatically deducted from the parent’s wages or other income (other income includes things like sales commissions, Employment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, income tax refunds, severance pay, and pensions)
  • register a charge (a lien) against the personal property or real estate of a parent who fails to pay the support that he or she owes
  • garnish (take money from) the bank account of a parent who fails to pay support
  • garnish up to 50% of a joint bank account that he or she has with someone else, or
  • make an order against another person who is helping a parent hide or shelter income or assets that should go toward support

The FRO can put more pressure on parents who do not make their support payments by:

  • suspending their driver’s licences
  • reporting them to the credit bureau so that it will be difficult for them to get loans, or
  • cancelling their passports.

Once the order or agreement is filed with the FRO, then it is the FRO, not the other parent, that is responsible for any actions taken to enforce it.

Sometimes parents receiving support withdraw from the FRO because it is easier to receive payments directly from the other parent. But if problems arise later, and they want to re-file with the FRO, they might have to pay a fee to do this.

Learn more about the FRO:

Top 5 Facts About the FRO

Top 5 Tips for Dealing with the Family Responsibility Office

 

  1. How to Reduce Child Support

Parents who have an obligation to pay support should also know that the FRO cannot change the amount that the order or agreement says they have to pay. If they think that a change in their financial situation justifies a reduction in the amount of support they should pay, they must get a new agreement or go to court to get the support order changed.

FRO can be contacted by calling 1-800-267-7263 or you can also visit their website.

Learn more about reducing child support:

Varying Child Support – How long is Too Long to Wait

Could Trucker Dad Avoid Child Support Due to Dizziness?


Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers has been providing answers and solutions to child support questions for over twenty years. If you need assistance determining whether you should be receiving child support for your child or collecting your support from the other parent, or if you believe that you should no longer be paying child support, we are here to help.

What is the Resolution Evolution – the Path to Peace?

What is the Resolution Evolution – the Path to Peace?

The Resolution Evolution – the Path to Peace is an OCLF/OAFM Conference and your opportunity to take advantage of world-class training close to home, to meet and network with other collaborative professionals, and to socialize with our professional colleagues.

The conference will run May 2, 3 & 4, 2019 at the Brookstreet Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario.

To register or learn more, click here.

Is Collaborative Practice Right for You? – video

 
 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Ontario Divorce Law, Is Collaborative Practice Right for You?

Collaborative Practice is a way for you to resolve disputes respectfully — without going to court — while working with trained professionals who are important to all areas of your life.

In this video, Abi Adeusi, introduces us to concepts of collaborative practice and many of the benefits this process offers couples going through a separation and divorce in Ontario.

Should Proud Pot-Growing Dad Get Sole Custody?

pot

Should Proud Pot-Growing Dad Get Sole Custody?

In another example of the kinds of difficult questions that Family Law judges have to grapple with, a recent Ontario case involved a father of a child who wanted custody, despite having been arrested in a methamphetamine sting, and despite what the court called his “obvious pride” at being good at the “craft” of running a marijuana-growing operation in his basement.

In Sukan v. Sukan, the court had to contend with numerous issues between the former couple, but key among them was custody of the 7-year old girl they had together. Since separation, the couple had shared custody evenly and somewhat amicably but, as the court described it:

“Regardless of how it began, this pattern of equal sharing changed quite substantially on April 14, 2011 when [the mother] learned from the front page of the Hamilton Spectator that both [the father] and his current partner were arrested in ‘one of the largest meth busts in the province’s history’.”

The father was detained in jail for 21 days before being released on bail; co-operation between him and the mother became strained after that point, and litigation increased significantly. The daughter had lived with the mother for the two years since the father’s arrest.

At trial the father, after initially asking for joint custody of the girl, changed his position mid-way through and asked for sole custody instead, claiming it was partly based “on his love for his daughter.” The court refused, finding that while the father’s plan for her care may have seemed logically reasonable on paper, it would change the status quo and was not a workable solution in terms of giving the daughter the stability that she needed.

But the interesting part of the court’s reasoning was its careful consideration of the father’s criminal history of drug-related charges. (It should be added that the both mother and father were charged with running a grow-operation in 2010; the charges against the mother were stayed, and the father – who was found guilty – received a conditional sentence. The court concluded that while the mother could not have been oblivious to the grow operation, the father was the “operating mind of this project”).

In assessing the father’s lifestyle for custody purposes, the court found he is “clearly quite proud of his substantial expertise” relating to drug operations. It wrote:

“As indicated, Mr. Sukan was proud to show off the knowledge of “his craft”. He was happy to explain the financial details of ‘12 light, 1,000 watt, hanging light grow operation’ for instance. He testified that 12 lights could yield one and half pounds per light ‘if you are good at your craft’. Such a yield would result in nine pounds per month times $2,000 per pound or $18,000 less about $2,000 expenses per month.

Mr. Sukan flies under the radar when it comes to income and employment. In the face of his criminal record and his own evidence about his skill set in the production of illicit drugs, I have concern.”

Having found that the husband’s sources of income and reporting methods to both Revenue Canada and the court were sketchy, this reflected poorly on his credibility and – by extension – his claim that he had “given up his ‘craft’ of which he so proudly boasts”. In contrast, the mother’s home was more stable and consistent for the child.

She was granted sole custody, although the father was given access every other weekend, and one mid-week overnight visit.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Sukan v. Sukan, 2013 ONSC 4468   http://canlii.ca/t/fzgt4
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 www.RussellAlexander.com.

 

Ontario Custody & Access: Who’s Is Entitled To The Child?


Wednesday’s Video Clip: Ontario Custody and Access Who’s Is Entitled To The Child?

There is a general misconception that when a couple separates, the children must automatically stay with their mother. But in Ontario, the mother and father are equally entitled to custody of the child.

In this video divorce lawyer Abi Adeusi discusses who is entitled to custody of the child, defacto custody, and mistake parents, often fathers, make regarding custody and the establishment of a status quo. She also explains the difference between custody and access.

Wednesday’s Video Clip: The Need for a Support System

 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: The Need for a Support System

In this short video Russell Alexander discusses the importance of having a support system in place when you go through a divorce.
 
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  www.RussellAlexander.com

Should Stepfather Pay Support if Biological Father Given a Pass?

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Should Stepfather Pay Support if Biological Father Given a Pass?

A recent Ontario case considered the question of whether a stepfather, who voluntarily assumed support responsibility for a stepchild, can have that obligation reduced because the child’smother fails or refuses to legally pursue a contribution toward that support from the child’s biological father.

In Truong v. Truong, the couple were married in 2003 and had one child together.  However the woman had been married before, and had a child from that relationship who was now 18 years old.   When the couple decided to separate and divorce, they agreed that the man would pay $1,000 per month for support for both children, based on his $72,000 annual income.  Primary custody was to remain with the mother.  

The man had been voluntarily contributing to the support of his 18-year-old stepson throughout the relationship, and had assumed a parental role toward him.   As such – in keeping with Canadian law in such circumstances – he did not dispute that he was obliged to pay child support after the separation.  However, the stepfather contended that the stepson’s natural father ought to pay child support as well, and that at the least, such support obligation should be shared between the two men.

Indeed, over the course of their relationship the stepfather had periodically raised the issue with the mother, but she had flatly told him that she would not be pursuing any support contribution from the biological father.  For one thing, she claimed she did not know his whereabouts; however the stepfather   she could easily find out through connections in the parties’cultural community.  In any case, the stepfather never pushed the issue during the relationship, since on their combined incomes money was not a concern and there was no pressing need for contribution from the boy’s biological father at that point.

Once the parties separated, however, the stepfather claimed that the mother should pursue such contribution, and that his corresponding support obligation should be reduced accordingly.

The mother resisted, pointing out that the stepson’s biological father had not been in contact with him since he was about five years of age.   In fact, over the years she had essentially received no support from the biological father at all, and she had never pursued him for it via the legal process, despite the fact that he was apparently living in the U.S. and earning over $100,000 per year.   He had remarried and had other children.  The court found that she had apparently told the biological father that she would forego her right to child support from him provided he did not pursue his custody or access rights.

In determining whether the stepfather’s support obligation should be reduced in the circumstances, the court also evaluated the source of both his and the biological father’s support responsibilities to the stepson.  First of all, it confirmed that under the Child Support Guidelines, the biological father    to pay child support in accord with the Guideline amounts.  With respect to the stepfather, however, the Child Support Guidelines indicate that where there is a person who “stand in the place of” a parent for a child, that person may be obliged to pay child support in an amount that the court considers to be appropriate, having regard to the Guidelines and any other legal duty to support the child.

In addition, the court confirmed the following general principles:

• a step-parent can be obliged to pay support, even when the biological parent does not;
 
• a step-parent is entitled to commence a separate action to seek contribution from the biological parent;
 
• there is no obligation on a recipient parent (here, the mother) to legally pursue support from the biological parent.
 

In this case, the court surmised that the mother had avoided pursuing support from the biological father because she was content to not have involved in their lives and did not want to trigger him to pursue custody or access to the boy.  

However, the court stated that if the mother did not earnestly pursue support from the biological father, then the stepfather should not be obliged to contribute the entire amount.  The mother was simply not entitled to “elect” to choose between two possible payors, one of which was the stepfather, and could not unilaterally transfer the full support obligation onto him.    

In the end, the court concluded that stepfather should not be required to pay the full Guideline amount merely because the mother had chosen not to pursue the stepson’s biological father for it.

The court accordingly ordered that the stepfather should pay $225 for the boy, notwithstanding the fact that he had previously agreed on consent to pay $1,000 per month.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Truong v. Truong, 2012 ONSC 3455  http://canlii.ca/t/frsvj

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  www.RussellAlexander.com.

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Whether a parent has a right to move with a child – the concept of “mobility” in family law

 

 

Whether a parent has a right to move with a child – the concept of “mobility” in family law

The moment that the parents of a child separate, everyone’s life circumstances change immediately: there are usually new living arrangements and a custody and access schedule put in place.

But as time passes, there may be other developments as well; for example the parents may embark on new relationships with new partners, or may change jobs.

The potential impact on any court-ordered support, custody or specific access arrangement, and the effect on each parent’s rights must be assessed and weighed.

In cases where one parent’s new relationships or new jobs require a move to another city or province, the concern is even greater. This is because such scenarios give rise the a legal issue of whether the circumstances and preferences of the parents should be allowed to dictate the child’s living circumstances, whether such moves should be allowed and by whom, and – if so – what happens to the custody and access arrangements that are in place.

In family law, this is known as a “mobility” issue.

In Canada, courts generally recognize that the well-being of a child is fundamentally interrelated with the well-being of the custodial parent; indeed, a 1996 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in a case called Gordon v. Goertz established conclusively that judges must apply the “best interests of the child” test in making decisions about whether a parent should be allowed to relocate with a child, which in turn requires an individual, fact-specific assessment. As the court put it:
“The focus is on the best interests of the child, not the interests and rights of the parents.”

Courts are required to make a “full and sensitive” inquiry. This means that they are obliged to take into consideration a vast array of factors, including:

• the existing custody arrangement and relationship between the child and the custodial parent;

• the existing access arrangement and the relationship between the child and the access parent;

• the desirability of maximizing contact between the child and both parents;

• the views of the child;

• the custodial parent’s reason for moving, only in the exceptional case where it is relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child;

• the disruption to the child of a change in custody; and

• the disruption to the child consequent on removal from family, schools, and the community he or she has come to know.

It is worth pointing out that in making this assessment, there is no presumption in favour of either parent (whether the custodial parent or otherwise).

The authority for a court to make such a determination on behalf of parents and children is set out in various provincial and federal family-legislation.

The federal Divorce Act, for example, provides that if a court gives one parent custody of a child, the court may also require that parent to give at least 30 days’ notice to the other parent of any planned change of residence of the child (although practically speaking, most orders specify a 60-day period).

The access parent, upon receiving such notice, can apply to the court to challenge the proposed change of residence, or seek a variation of the custody or access arrangements; this notice period also afford the parents the chance to negotiate acceptable relocation terms, before it happens.

When mobility issues arise, it is important to get experienced and competent legal advice, to ensure that the best interests of all parties – particularly the children of the relationship – are safeguarded.

We hope you have found this video helpful.  If you require further information about mobility issues and family law please give us a call or visit our website at www.russellalexander.com

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