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Understanding the effect of spousal support on social assistance

Ontario spouses who are seeking a divorce may be interested in some information about how child or spousal support affects their social assistance payments. Depending on the circumstances, the amount of support could be deducted from their assistance payments.
When a person who is receiving social assistance funds divorces, the law requires that they make a reasonable attempt to obtain any spousal support payments that they are legally entitled to. The amount of these payments, in turn, is deducted from the social assistance that the person receives. Obtaining child or spousal support can be done through a family support worker, who will use information about the former spouse to attempt to get a support order.
Experts caution that legal advice should be sought prior to signing any support agreement in order to help ensure that the agreement is in their best interests. Some cases do not require the person to make these reasonable efforts to obtain support. These include cases where there has been violence towards the person or their children by their former spouse, when the former spouse has no income and cannot afford to make support payments, and when neither the individual nor the family support worker can locate the former spouse.
If the former spouse has missed support payments in the past, these payments may go directly to the Ontario social assistance services. These services will then pay the support and assistance to the person directly, without deducting the support payments received. Understanding how the legal system affects a person’s support payments can be difficult without the help of a lawyer. The lawyer may be able to represent a person throughout the process of obtaining spousal and child support. The lawyer may also be helpful in petitioning for a modification of a support order when circumstances change.
Source: CLEO, “Separation and Divorce: Spousal Support“, November 26, 2014