How Does Child Support Work in Ontario?

The Department of Justice defines child support as a child’s right to receive monetary support from their parents after their divorce or separation. Payments are made from one parent to the primary caregiver in order to support the act of raising their child after their relationship has ended.

The Canadian Federal Child Support Guidelines outline the legal requirements for child support payments. These guidelines establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures they continue to benefit from financial means of both parents after separation. These guidelines are in place to help reduce conflict and tensions between parents by giving courts and parents an existing framework for determining child support amounts. The guidelines make the legal process more efficient, and ensure the consistent treatment of parents and children who are in similar circumstances. 

Although they are outlined as a subset of the Divorce Act, these guidelines apply to all separated parents. Child support does not require a marriage to have taken place. Typically, the parent who contributes less time to their child’s care will be required to pay support to the parent who provides the most parenting time (more than 60%). That said, if both parents contribute on a shared basis to the care of the child and decide they do not want to be the recipient of child support, the law does not require these payments to be made. 

How Are Child Support Agreements Made?

There are several ways a child support agreement can be put into place. An agreement may be reached between the parents without the aid of an external party. In this case, the parents will not be required to go to court to determine the payment amount.  A mediator or a family lawyer who has experience in child support matters may assist the parents to come to an agreement outside of court.  

If an agreement cannot reached between the parents, the case will need to go to court for a judge to determine a fair and reasonable support payment called a child support order. One child support order can provide support for multiple children. 

When child support disputes are forced to go to family court, seeking legal guidance can be a valuable resource to help navigate the difficult process.

What Are the Federal Child Support Tables and How Are Child Support Payments Calculated? 

The amount of child support one parent must pay to the other is determined by the Federal Child Support Tables included in the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Certain variables may influence the cost of required payments, including the number of children requiring support, the ages of those children, the gross income of the parent making support payments and their province of residence, since each province has a separate Federal Support Table. When determining child support payment amounts, the court may also take other special or extraordinary expenses into consideration, such as health care or undue hardships. 

When determining child support payment amounts, the Universal Child Care Benefit is not taken into consideration. The Universal Child Care benefit is a tax-free monthly payment from the federal government. Parents responsible for children under the age of 18 and reside in Canada may be eligible for this benefit. 

Once the payment amount has been determined by the court and a judge has established the child support order, the agreement is filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). This office collects, distributes, and enforces child support payments. These payments can be periodic, lump sum, or a mixture of both depending on the parental agreement or child support order. If child support is not paid, FRO may forward the amount owing to a credit bureau. They may also suspend the driver’s license of the recalcitrant parent or take the funds directly out of their bank accounts. Parents can consent to paying child support directly to the other parent and not through FRO.

Child support payment amounts may be re-calculated if one of the variables that determines the total cost changes for any reason. This can happen because of changes to the parent’s total gross income, if they relocate their province of residence, or if they incur extraordinary/special expenses or undue hardships. 

Child support is applicable for children under 18 years of age in Ontario. However, if a child support order is still in place, parents may still be required to make payments even after their child have reached the age of majority. In fact, in many situations, separated parents are still required to continue to make child support payments after a child passes the age of 18. The required payment amount for children over the age of majority is also determined by the same tables included in the Federal Child Support Guidelines and application of exceptional circumstances/expenses. 


Contact Cohen Highley’s Family Law Lawyers Today for Legal Advice on Child Support Matters

If you require legal assistance from a family lawyer on child support matters, contact our law firm to book a consultation with our family law team. Our family law lawyers are proud to represent clients across Southwestern Ontario and have decades of experience handling child support cases. Our law firm has offices in London, Kitchener, Chatham, Stratford and Strathroy, making it easier for residents of Southwestern Ontario to access our services. Contact us today for immediate legal assistance on all your child support matters.

*Disclaimer: Please note the content prescribed in this article is only intended to act as a general overview on a legal topic. For specific legal guidance regarding child support matters we recommend you consult with a family lawyer for legal advice as each situation is unique.

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