The parent with custody of the children has to take care of them, buy food and clothes for them, pay for outings and activities, look after all their day-to-day needs and keep the home running.
The parent who does not have custody of the children usually has to pay the parent with custody money to help cover the costs of taking care of the children. This payment is called child support.
The amount of child support to be paid in Ontario is set out under the Child Support Guidelines. Under the Guidelines, child support payments are based on the income of the person who does not have custody or the person with whom the children do not usually live and the number of children that need support.
In some cases, the court can order an amount that is higher or lower than the guideline amount. For example, the court can award more than the guideline amount where the child has “special expenses.” These might include, for example, childcare expenses, tuition for private school, fees and equipment for hockey, or the cost of getting braces.
In very limited circumstances, the court can also award less than the guideline amount where paying this amount would cause “undue hardship” for the parent required to pay. In order for the court to consider awarding less than the guideline amount, the parent asking for the decrease would have to prove hardship and prove that the standard of living in his or her household is lower than the standard of living in the child’s household.
Q. I think that my spouse is earning more money now than when the child support order was made. How can I find out?
A. Under Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines, the person paying support is now required to provide the recipient with confirmation of his or her income each year on the anniversary of the support order, unless they have agreed not to exchange income disclosure each year. You can get more detailed income information from your spouse for the last three years by requesting it in writing. This information can include:
i. a copy of his or her three most recent income tax returns and notices of assessment and reassessment for those returns;
ii. information regarding how that person is currently making a living. For example, if the person is an employee, he or she must give recent pay-stubs; if he or she is self-employed, he or she must give financial statements of the business, and a statement showing all money paid to people or companies related to the person paying support. There are other requirements for someone who owns an incorporated company or who is a partner in a partnership;
iii. a statement of any income from a trust and copies of the trust’s financial statements; and
iv. current information in writing about any “special expenses” or “undue hardship”.
Q. Does my child support automatically change when my spouse’s income changes?
A No. If your spouse’s income changes, the two of you may be able to agree on a new amount of support either on your own or with the help of a lawyer or mediator. However, if you can’t agree, you will need to return to court to have the new amount set by bringing a Motion to Change. The new amount will be determined under the Guidelines based on your spouse’s new income.
Q My child support order does not say anything about matching payments to the cost of living. Inflation could mean that my support money isn’t worth as much in a couple of years. Can I change this?
A The Child Support Guidelines do not adjust support payments for increases in the cost of living. Payments are based on the income of the parent who pays support. If that parent’s income goes up, you can ask for an increase in your child support payments.
Q. I have been paying child support fairly regularly and now my wife is starting to play games about when I can see my kids. Last weekend I went to pick them up and she said they’d gone to their grandmother’s for the day. Why should I pay support if I don’t get to see my children?
A. The law is very clear. You owe child support no matter what happens with your access arrangements. Child support is money you pay to help share the cost of taking care of your children. But you and your children do have a right to have your access arrangements respected. Speak to your lawyer, a mediator, or a family counsellor about the trouble you are having getting to see your children. Everyone will benefit if you can work things out with your spouse without having to go to court.
Child Support: Common Law Couples
Q. Martine and I are not married. We have lived together for eight years and have twins who are four years old. Martine is tired and fed up and wants to move out on her own. We have agreed that I will have custody of the twins. Will Martine have to pay child support?
A Yes. The amount of support will be set under the Child Support Guidelines. The amount will be based on Martine’s income. Children have a right to financial support from both their parents, whether or not their parents are married. Common law couples have the same responsibilities to their children as married couples do.
Parents who have never lived together
Q. A while ago I had a short relationship with Joan. We never lived together. We just dated a few times. We broke up when I found out she was dating someone else at the same time as me. She just had a baby boy, and she says it’s mine and she’s taking me to court for child support. I don’t think I’m the father, and even if I am, I don’t see why I should have to support the child.
A. If the child is yours, you have a legal obligation to support the child, even though you and Joan were never married or living together. You would also have a right to access to your child so that you could spend time with him. However, if you believe he is not your child you can request a paternity test. If Joan won’t agree to one, you can ask the court to order the paternity test.
Q. I was a single mother, looking after my three-year-old son, when I married Jason five years ago. We all got along great until a few months ago. Now I think we’re headed for a separation. If we do split, does Jason have to pay any child support for my son?
A. If Jason accepted the responsibilities of being a parent to your son, you have a right to ask him to pay child support, even though he is not your son’s biological father. A judge could decide if Jason had, in fact, treated your son as his own and had accepted the responsibilities of being a parent. If so, the judge would then look at Jason’s income and set the support according to the Guidelines.
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* source: attorney-general of Ontario website
Things to know about Family Law