This article is a complete guide to child support laws in Ontario. It covers everything from how child support is calculated to how the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) enforces payments. There are many details surrounding the laws of child support which should be discussed with a lawyer for a full understanding. Please contact us today to discuss any of the below topics in more detail.
What is Child Support?
Child support is the money that a parent pays to another party who has physical custody of a child for the child’s overall care. In some cases, where there is shared parenting time, the parent with the higher income pays the other parent-child support in order to maintain similar standards of living in both households. Child support payments tend to be administered every month, but this can change based on different factors.
Child support covers the following:
- The circumstances in which the child is currently living.
- Where the child is currently living.
- Certain medical care (dentist, optometrist — everything that is not covered by OHIP)
- Education/Tuition expenses
- Any extracurricular activities the child may be involved in such as rep sports or tutoring
Please click here to view the full official government breakdown of the child support laws and regulations in Ontario.
Who Pays Child Support?
The parent who does not have physical custody of the child is the one responsible for paying the child support to the other parent. If the child is being co-parented then the amount of payment can be determined through a couple of different options. See here for more information on child support payments and co-parenting.
Who is Entitled to the Child?
There is a general misconception that when parties breakup that children must stay with the mother. The Children Law Reform Act states that both mother and father are entitled to custody of the child.
If, for example, one parent decides to leave and take the children with them, then the law presumes that the other party has expressed or implied their consent to take the child unless a challenge is made. Inaction may lead to what is known as the status quo establishing defacto custody in some situations. This is why it is critical that if a party is not content with the arrangement that they voice this concern and bring a Court Application if required.
It is important to note that access is not suspended, being the right of both the child and parent to physically see one another unless there is a Court Order setting this out. The line may get drawn at some point when it comes to making decisions about the child, as that duty solely rests with the custodial parent.
Arranging Child Support
When it comes to arranging child support there are a couple of different ways to start the process:
- Set-up or update child support payments online: There is an opportunity to set up child support or adjust the amount of child support online. Please visit this link for more information. For questions regarding an online application or how to set up or update child support online, contact the online Child Support Service Contact Centre at 1-866-656-7753.
- Respond to a letter in the mail: Once either parent signs or updates child support payments, a letter will be sent in the mail from the Ministry of the Attorney General, informing the receiver of the updated support status. According to Ontario government guidelines, there must be an online response within 25 calendar days of receiving that letter. Enclosed there will be an identification number that is on the document that must be used to then log in with.
- These arrangements may also be made by way of direct negotiation and an agreement between the parties which may then be followed by direct payment of support, or payment through the Family Responsibility Office or FRO.
For more information on arranging child support, please visit this link here, to learn more.
When Does Child Support End?
Child support must be paid if a child is still under 18 years of age. However, there are a couple of circumstances that can lead to the dismissal of child support payments:
- The child has married
- The child is 16 years of age or older and has voluntarily left their parents or has become emancipated
There are also situations where even if the child has turned 18 years of age they are still considered dependent on their parents. This usually occurs when the child is unable to support themselves due to any of the following:
- They have a disability or illness
- They are attending school full-time
In a situation where the child is living away from home because they are attending school, child support payments may have to continue to be paid if the child’s primary residence is still with the custodial parent. For more information on how child support payments and university students are determined, please refer to this article.
Is Child Support a Taxable Form of Payment?
Before 1997 child support was a taxable income but this is no longer the case and child support payments are no longer taxable or tax-deductible. The current tax rules state that the parent making the child support payments cannot claim a deduction for making child support payments on their taxes. This is the same for parents receiving child support payments, as they are unable to officially file any information regarding child support payments on their taxes as well.
Remember child support payments always are paid before spousal support payments and should be a separate and distinct payment. Please view the articles listed here for more information on spousal support.
How to Change Child Support Payments in Divorce and Separation Agreements?
Certain circumstances need to occur before changes to child support payments in divorce and separation agreements can be made. Here is a list of possible reasons for updating:
- There are new special or extraordinary expenses (see here for more information).
- The person paying loses their job.
- The person paying makes more money than the custodial parent.
- The child changes their primary residence.
- The child goes away to school, starts a new school, gets married or moves out.
A change in the income of the parent getting the support payments is not a reason to change the separation agreement as that parent’s income is usually not taken into account when deciding how much child support should be paid unless there is a shared custody arrangement in place.
Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario
Aside from seeing the funds arrive in a bank account, there is a branch of the provincial government called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) that enforces child support order payments and agreements that are filed with its office.
How Does FRO Enforce Child Support?
To ensure that payments are being made, FRO needs to have all the correct information in its online database. The information regarding both parents (payer and receiver) must be included in the file as that is the best way for FRO to ensure that the correct payments are being deducted and properly administered.
If a payment is missed, then all the information about the person responsible for paying the child support is escalated with a Support Deduction Information Form which is then brought forward to the court. The FRO may enforce payment by garnishing a payor’s employment or CRA refunds and in some cases, the FRO may pursue the suspension of the payor’s driver’s license and even jail time.
How Can Child Support Payments Be Decreased?
Parents who must pay child support should know that the FRO cannot change the amount that was agreed upon in the separation or divorce agreement.
If they think that a change in their financial situation justifies a decrease in the payment amount they must consult their lawyer and draft a new separation agreement that will be mutually decided and agreed upon by both parties. If an agreement cannot be reached that a Motion to Change may be required in court to change the terms of the existing court order or agreement.
FRO can be contacted by calling 1-800-267-7263 or by visiting the Ontario government’s website for more information.
How is Child Support Calculated?
In most cases, the amount of child support paid is based on the government’s child support guidelines. These guidelines say that child support is usually made up of both:
- A basic monthly amount (Table Amount)
- An amount for other expenses called special or extraordinary expenses
Here are some examples of monthly child support payments based on the Table Amount for Ontario:
Current List of Extraordinary & Special Expenses to Consider.
An expense is considered to be extraordinary or special if it is in the reasonable means of the parent’s expenses and it is necessary for the child’s best interests.
The amount of extra expenses is calculated by the net income of both of the parents and what each can afford.
An extra associated cost along with the Table Amounts above is the addition of extraordinary or special expenses. Here are examples of extraordinary or special expenses:
- Child fees such as after-school programs, daycare etc.
- Insurance fees for dental and medical visits and prescriptions.
- Educational fees such as learning programs or tutoring.
- University or college tuition payments.
- If the child engages in sports teams above a rep level or lessons, special clubs or community activities.
External Child Support Ontario Links
For a full list of the Ontario government child support services and guidelines visit any of the links below:
Please contact us today for information regarding any child care regulations or child custody arrangements.