Child support consists of monthly payments made by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the support, maintenance, and care of a child. Both parents have the obligation to provide financial support for their children and, once a child’s parents separate, the non-custodial parent has a duty to pay child support to the custodial parent.
The specific amount of child support to be paid is set by the Child Support Guidelines and depends on the gross income of each parent, the number of children involved, and the province in which the parents live.
Often, a child may have special or extraordinary expenses, such as childcare, medical or educational expenses, that must be paid by the child’s parents in proportion to their respective incomes. Accordingly, the non-custodial parent may be required to pay more than the amount set by the Child Support Guidelines to cover these additional expenses. The non-custodial parent is required to pay the determined child support regardless of any decisions made concerning child visitation.
Child support arrangements are monitored and enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), a governmental agency responsible for ensuring that families are given the financial support that they are entitled to receive. The FRO receives all support orders issued by Ontario courts. Once the FRO receives a divorce decree and/or support order, it contacts both the payor parent and the parent receiving the child support payments and provides them with a case number and personal identification number to use in communications regarding their support order.
Typically, support payments are made through an employer who will deduct the amount of payments from each paycheck and send the money to the FRO. The FRO then sends these payments to the custodial parent receiving child support. If there is no employer, the payor parent can send payments directly to the FRO, which will then send the payment to the recipient parent. Payments can be made to the FRO using the following methods:
- Online banking
- Pre-authorized payments from a bank account
- Checks or money orders
Once the FRO receives a payment, it will be sent to the recipient parent within 48 hours. Payments can be made to recipients either by direct deposit to a bank account or by mailing a check to the parent’s address.
If the payor parent falls behind in his or her child support payments, the FRO will first attempt to come to an agreement with the parent where past due payments are paid in installments. Such an agreement is referred to as a Voluntary Arrears Payment Schedule (VAPS). Regardless of whether a VAPS has been agreed to, the FRO can collect past due payments from tax refunds due to the parent and can issue a writ of seizure and sale against the parent’s property to pay off the arrears. If the parent fails to pay off any arrears, the FRO may also take the following actions:
- Reporting the incident to the credit bureau
- Garnishing the payor parent’s bank accounts
- Suspending the parent’s driver’s license
- Suspending passports and other federal licenses, such as a pilot’s license
- Taking the payor to court to collect on the past due payments
Typically, child support cannot be an amount less than that required by the Child Support Guidelines . However, in certain instances, the courts may permit a reduction in the amount of child support paid. Such circumstances include:
- Undue hardship
- When the child has reached the age of 18
- Where there is shared custody
Undue hardship occurs when there are circumstances that cause hardship for one of the parents and that parent has a lower standard of living than the other parent. Examples of circumstances that may cause undue hardship include: unusually high costs associated with access to a child or a legal duty to support another person. When undue hardship is demonstrated by the payor parent, the court may reduce the amount of child support to an amount that is reasonable based upon the discretion of the court.
If the child support agreement, or court order, was entered into prior to May 1, 1997, the payor parent can deduct child support payments on his or her income taxes and the parent receiving the child support must claim the payments as income on his or her income taxes. If the child support agreement, or court order, was entered into after May 1, 1997, the child support payments are not deductible for the payor parent and the recipient parent is not required to pay taxes on the payments.
Under the Child Support Guidelines, there is no set termination date for child support. Normally, child support is paid as long as the children are enrolled in school on a full-time basis. This includes primary school, college and post-secondary education. Once a child reaches the age of 18, however, the child’s income may be examined to determine whether the amount of child support should be altered.
For more information on child support, and other family law matters, please visit MyOntarioDivorce.com or BermanBarristers.com.
Robert Berman B.C.L, LL.B
Founder & Family Law Lawyer