Child Support is an amount that is paid from one parent to the other, usually calculated on a monthly basis, not taxable to the recipient, and not tax deductible to the payor. The purpose of child support is to help with the expenses of the child or children.
Child Support Guidelines
It is not traceable, meaning that the amount paid does not have to be specifically applied to child expenses. The Child Support Guidelines, are the same whether the parties were married or not, as the concept is that the guidelines will allow for money for that child. For basic child support, one reviews a chart that looks solely at the income of the payor. Every payor earning the same income, for the same number of children, will pay the same amount.
Here is a Child Support Calculator for Ontario.
Parties can agree to something different other than the guidelines, but the court is quite consistent in applying the guidelines, unless very unique and unusual circumstances prevail, and fall under the category of “hardship.”
There can be “add-on expenses” which are beyond the “basic child support,” for special educational costs, day care, medical or unusual (“extraordinary”) expenses. The law says that these are to be paid in proportion to the income of the parents, so the income of both parents is considered.
There can be variations (changes to the amounts, so child support can be more or child support can be less) of the guidelines if there is “shared parenting.” The parties can agree to a different amount than that which is set out in the Child Support Guidelines. The court will also agree to a different amount than the guidelines, as long as the court is of the view that the expenses of the child are being paid appropriately.
Enforcing Child Support
The Ontario government has an agency called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which receives payments as set out for child support in court orders, unless the recipient agrees otherwise.
In agreements, parties can decide whether the payment should go through the Family Responsibility Office. This Office directs that the employer of the payor pay the regular amounts to it, and records and calculates the payments made. It pays the money to the recipient, but only those amounts that have actually been collected.
If the payments are delinquent, the Family Responsibility Office has authority given to it by legislation (not requiring the court) to take other steps, which include:
taking a large percentage of paycheques (50% of gross, meaning before taxes);
requiring the Ministry of Transportation to suspend the delinquent payor’s driver’s licence;
seizing amounts in bank accounts; and
asking the court to put the delinquent payor in jail.
The recipient may also, in addition to using the services of the Family Responsibility Office, ask a court to become involved in the collection of overdue payments.
Changing Child Support
When there is an agreement (domestic contract between the parties), or court order (either by agreement or imposed by the court), the parties may agree to change the child support being paid.
If no agreement can be reached on child support, the court system generally looks for a change of income, or a “material change in circumstances” (justifiable reasons) to alter the child support amounts that were being paid. If the payor received substantial salary increase, that would be a material change, meaning the payor would be required to report the increase to the other ex-spouse (either directly or through the Family Responsibility Office) and increase the amount of child support accordingly.
There are background documents or information to be exchanged, which can be court-required and assisted by family lawyers. The parties can hire a family mediator to work with both of them in an effort to determine if an agreement can be reached as to what changes should be made in the child support.
This can include forgiveness of outstanding or previously calculated child support.
Retroactive Child Support
The term “retroactive” refers to child support that may have been justified as payments in the past. The ordinary concept is that child support starts when the parties separated. However, the court process, or even an agreement process, can take considerable time to be put into effect.
A payment for” retroactive child support” is a payment that is paid on one day, but is for what should have been paid in the past. The parties are encouraged to reach agreements, but a court can impose an order for retroactive child support.
Factors such as whether the child support was requested, and is justified, requires a detailed consideration of what happened in the past and what were the circumstances. Mississauga family lawyers or family mediators can assist the parties in this process.