Parents have a financial obligation to support their children. Child support plays a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of children whose parents are separated or divorced. Child support in Ontario is primarily governed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which create consistency and fairness in child support arrangements. The guidelines apply to parents who are divorced, separated or unmarried and are seeking child support.
It is important to understand how child support in Ontario works, which involves familiarizing oneself with the calculations, enforcement laws and various factors influencing these determinations.
Child support is closely tied to parenting arrangements. The parent with whom the child primarily resides is the primary or resident parent, while the other is the non-resident parent. The non-resident parent is typically responsible for paying child support to the primary parent.
In shared parenting cases, where the child spends significant time with each parent, child support calculations become more complex. The guidelines consider the income of both parents, the time the child spends with them and other relevant factors to determine the appropriate amount.
It is important to note that “parents” or “guardians” can refer to birth parents, step-parents, adoptive parents and common-law spouses. Even if a spouse is not the birth or biological parent to a child, they may be obligated to pay some child support if it is determined that they “stood in place of a parent” or “demonstrated a settled intent to treat the child as their own”.
Calculation of Child Support
The calculation of child support in Ontario is based on the income of the paying parent and the number of children involved. The guidelines establish a percentage of the paying parent’s income appropriate for child support.
The income used in the calculation includes, but is not limited to, employment income, self-employment income, investment income, and certain government benefits. Both parents must provide accurate and up-to-date information about their income to ensure a fair and accurate determination of child support.
In addition to basic child support, parents may be responsible for contributing to special and extraordinary expenses. These expenses may include costs related to a child’s education, daycare, extracurricular activities, and healthcare beyond the usual costs covered by basic child support. Determining who is responsible for these additional expenses can be complicated and may require negotiation or court intervention. Parents should consult with their family lawyer during this process.
Enforcement of Child Support Orders
Once a child support order is in place, it is crucial to ensure its enforcement to guarantee the financial support children need.
The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) enforces child support in Ontario. The FRO can take various measures to ensure compliance, such as withholding wages, registering a lien against the paying parent’s assets, intercepting tax refunds, suspending their driver’s license and even canceling that parent’s passport.
Failure to comply with Ontario child support orders can have serious consequences, including legal action and potential imprisonment.
Modification of Child Support Orders
Life circumstances can change, and parents may find it necessary to modify child support orders. Common reasons for modification include changes in income, employment status or the child’s needs. Engaging with a family lawyer is advisable for parents seeking to modify a child support order. Collaborating with legal counsel allows them to agree on the proposed changes while navigating the modification process.
Ending Child Support in Ontario
Child support typically continues until the child reaches 18. There are exceptions, including the following.
- If the child is still a dependent and is unable to withdraw from their parents’ charge because of illness, disability or other causes. In such cases, child support may continue if the child remains a dependent.
- If a child is over 18 and is pursuing education full-time, child support may continue until the completion of their first post-secondary degree or diploma, typically up to the age of 25.
Family Lawyers in Vaughan
The family lawyers at GDH Family Law understand that each family is unique, especially when it comes to child support in Ontario. Regardless of the stage of your separation, we encourage you to speak with us – we will advocate for your family’s best interests.