Child Support in Ontario: Top 10 Questions
By Kristy Hansen | February 24, 2022
One of the most widely discussed parenting issues in family law is child support. In Ontario, a child has the right to financial support from both of their parents. It is important to note that this is the child’s right, not the right of the recipient spouse. If you and your partner are separating and have a child together, you are both legally obligated to share the costs of caring for the child. Here are answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions about child support.
1. How is Child Support calculated?
The amount of Child Support is calculated in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines. The amount you owe depends on three factors:
a) Your gross annual income (in most cases, this means your total income from all sources, before taxes are deducted).
b) Where your child lives – i.e., how much time your child spends living at each parent’s house.
c) The number of children that are entitled to support.
Calculating is often as simple as inputting the information into this government calculator: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/child-enfant/2017/look-rech.aspx You can learn more about how Child Support is calculated by checking out our blog entitled “Answering Your Questions about Child Support” by Lakshani Perera.
It is important to note that, in certain circumstances, calculating child support is not as straightforward (examples include self-employment income and high-income earners). In addition, there can be “add-on” amounts of child support to be shared by the parents in many situations. These amounts are called extraordinary (or Section 7) expenses. Bottom line: it is always recommended that you obtain legal advice before finalizing an agreement with your ex-partner.
2. Can I negotiate how much I owe for Child Support?
Simply put, no.
Remember, it is the right of the child to receive the child support, not the right of the recipient. Since the child doesn’t have the ability to contract out of his or her entitlement to this support, the payor and recipient cannot do so either.
The amount is set by federal and provincial guidelines. This means that you are unable to negotiate the amount, pay less, decline to pay, or amend support
3. Does the amount of Child Support I owe ever change?
Yes, you are able to change the amount of support you pay in accordance with your income. Child Support is typically re-calculated on an annual basis. You may also apply to the court to have it changed if there is a “material change in circumstance” – for example, if you lose your job, become disabled, etc. It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer where there might be a “material change in circumstances.”
4. When does Child Support end?
Child support may end when a child turns 18 years old, unless they are in post-secondary school or unable to live on their own by reason of an illness or disability. Other situations that may end the obligation to pay child support to your ex-partner include, but are not limited to:
a) The child becomes self-supporting; b) The child marries; c) The child dies; and d) The child no longer resides with the recipient parent.
Again, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer if you are unsure about your particular situation.
5. Is Child Support linked to Decision-Making Responsibility (formerly known as “custody”) or Parenting Time (formerly know as “access”)?
Your obligation to pay child support is not linked to decision-making responsibility or parenting time (formerly known as custody and access). Even if you are not legally able to make decisions regarding the child and are not able to have the child living with you, you still have to pay child support, since it is the child’s right regardless of circumstances.
However, there are some instances in which child support can vary based on how much time the child or children reside with each parent.
6. Does my ex need to spend the child support directly on the child?
No. There is no specific requirement for child support to be directly spent on a child. Child support is meant to encompass any-and-all additional expenses to the recipient parent of raising children, including household bills, groceries, vehicle expenses, and basic needs.
7. If I am not the child’s biological parent, do I still need to pay?
This will depend on your situation. If you “stood in the place of a parent” for a child prior to separating from your ex (the child’s biological parent), or “demonstrated a settled intention to treat the child as your own,” you may be required to pay child support. This is another circumstance where obtaining legal advice is very important.
8. What is the Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) and what do they have to do with Child Support?
In Ontario, the government created a branch called the Family Responsibility Office which enforces child support payments. If you do not make your child support payment, the FRO has the authority to enforce action to ensure you make your payments. This can include garnishing your wages, seizing government payments that are owed to you (such as income tax refunds), registering a lien against your property, taking money from your bank account, ordering a collection, and even cancelling your driver’s license and/or passport. You cannot escape your child support obligation, even by way of bankruptcy.
9. Is Child Support tax deductible?
No. Child support is not tax-deductible for the paying parent, nor is it added (taxable) to the income of the recipient.
10. What happens if my ex moves away with the child?
You will still have the obligation to pay child support, no matter where you or the child reside.
Need legal advice about child support? Contact Henderson Family Law to meet with one of our family lawyers to have your questions answered.
This content is provided as a general informational source by Henderson Family Law, and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, or establish a lawyer-client relationship. Every situation is complex and fact-specific, and appropriate advice will vary accordingly. Do not rely on this information for legal decision-making under any circumstances. Please consult with us and obtain proper advice and strategy concerning the specifics of your particular situation.