A divorce or separation, although only a split between spouses, can sometimes feel to children as if they too are being split from a family unit.
To ease the transition for your family during this difficult time, we hope to simplify a few things for you, and arm you with some tools to navigate child support issues effectively.
First off, what is child support?
Child support refers to a sum of money that one parent pays to another (“the recipient”) for financially supporting their shared child. Some mistake child support for being financial support from one parent to another, however, child support is truly a child’s legal right to have and receive financial support from both parents.
Is all financial responsibility up to the designated parent who pays child support?
Regardless of which parent is assigned to pay child support, it is the legal responsibility of both parents to provide their children with financial support. As stated earlier, it is the children’s legal right to receive such support.
How does child support work if one parent does not have sole custody?
To answer this question, let’s briefly define the following related terms:
Sole Legal Custody: Legal custody of a child belongs to one parent. This parent is the one who makes major decisions (ie. education, religion, health care) for the child.
Joint Legal Custody: Legal custody of a child belongs to both parents. Together, both parents make major decisions (ie. education, religion, health care) for their child.
Sole Physical Custody: The child lives primarily with one parent.
Shared Physical Custody: The children live at least 40% of the time with each parent.
Split Physical Custody: The children live with each parent more than 60% of the time.
Custody is a combination of one legal and one physical arrangement. Shared Custody and Split Custody are terms normally used in the child support context.
Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, for a child whose living arrangements are with one parent for at least 60% of the time, the other parent will generally pay child support.
With Shared Custody, one parent will still likely pay child support. It’s not guaranteed that the parent who lives with their child for a fewer percentage of the time will be the one paying child support, as there are a number of factors a court considers.
With Split custody, each parent has sole custody of different children, but a legal financial responsibility to all. The Federal Guidelines have a table that helps determine how much each parent should pay the other.
Are there provincial guidelines in addition to the Federal Guidelines?
All provinces and territories have child support guidelines that are a lot like the Federal Guidelines. Regarding child support, Ontario uses the federal tables, so the basic amounts are the same.
Under Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines, the person paying support is required to provide the recipient with confirmation of their income each year on the anniversary of the support order, unless they have agreed not to exchange income disclosure each year.
Does an income change affect child support?
The child support amount owed does not automatically change when income changes. If both parents are aware of the change in income, they may be able to agree on a new amount of support either on their own or with the help of a lawyer.
If parents are not able to come to an agreement regarding a child support payment amount, they will need to return to court to have a new amount set by bringing a Motion to Change. This new amount will be determined under the Guidelines based on new income.
What happens if a parent refuses to pay child support?
In this case (in Ontario), the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) should be contacted. The FRO collects, distributes and enforces court-ordered child and spousal support payments.
If one parent is refused access to their child by their spouse, are they still obligated to pay the full amount of child support?
Regardless of the results of access arrangements, parents still have a legal financial responsibility to their children.
You owe it to your children to share the cost of their care with your spouse. As previously stated, don’t think of it as paying the recipient, but paying for your children.
That said, you and your children have a right to have your access arrangements respected. Speak to your lawyer about navigating such issues. Working this out outside of court is the least troublesome way to go.
Did this article answer your questions or concerns about child support? If you would like to speak with one of our lawyers regarding further issues related to child support please contact us at (416) 840-1475 or schedule your free initial consultation here.