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Your Complete Guide to Child Support Laws In Ontario

Child Support Regulations book. Law, rules and regulations concept.

Originally Published: January 2021

Updated: July 2023

This is your complete guide to child support laws in Ontario. It covers everything from the basics of calculating child support payments to determining tax designation for child support. There are many details that go into child support laws. They are in place to maintain the wellbeing of children.

To keep with the best interests of your child, it is important to contact an experienced family lawyer.

What is Child Support?

Child support is the legal obligation imposed on a parent to provide financial support to the parent who has decision making responsibility and parenting time (previously known as custody and access). The intention of child support is to ensure that children receive the financial support they need despite the existence of an ongoing divorce or separation.

In some cases, where there is shared parenting time, the parent with the higher income pays the other parent child support to ensure the child has 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 considers 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

The Ontario government outlines the official breakdown of child support laws and regulations. An experienced family lawyer will help you interpret these laws and explain how they apply to your specific situation.

Who Pays Child Support?

The parent who does not have decision making responsibility for 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 will be determined based on your unique circumstances. Typically, in such circumstances, the parent with the higher income pays the other parent child support.

Who is Entitled to the Child?

There is a general misconception that when parties separate, the children must stay with the mother. The Children Law Reform Act states that both mother and father are equally entitled to decision making responsibilities.

Here are some key considerations related to decision-making responsibility and parenting time in Ontario:

  • The best interests of the child: the court decides based on which arrangement will be the most beneficial for the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well being.
  • Joint decision making: the court often encourages parents to share decision making responsibility when it is appropriate for the child’s well-being.
  • Parenting time: the court wants to ensure that children have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents. They will consider schedules, work, and the child’s needs.
  • Primary residence: it is common for children to have a primary residence with one parent. This is often to ensure stability in the child’s life.
  • Defacto decision making responsibility (custody): this occurs if one parent takes primary decision-making responsibility, and the other parent does not challenge the decision making arrangement. The law presumes that the other party has expressed or implied consent to take the child unless a challenge is made.

It is critical that if you are not content with the decision making arrangement, you contact an experienced lawyer who can advise you and aid in voicing this concern by bringing a Court Application if required.

Arranging Child Support

When arranging child support, if possible, open communication between parents will help you reach an agreement easily. It is important to contact an experienced family lawyer who can guide and represent you through this process.

To set up child support, there are a couple of different ways to start the process:

  1. Online: If you are eligible, you can set up or update child support payments online. For questions about online set-up or updates, contact Service Ontario Child Support Service contact centre at 1-866-656-7753.
  2. 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. You must respond 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.
  3. Direct negotiation: Child support can be arranged through 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.

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:

  1. A basic monthly amount (Table Amount)
  2. 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:

per year
1 child:
per month
2 children:
per month
3 children:
per month
$12,000 $0 $0 $0
$15,000 $79 $170 $183
$20,000 $161 $311 $360
$30,000 $256 $459 $621
$40,000 $359 $597 $805
$50,000 $461 $755 $977

Current List of Extraordinary & Special Expenses to Consider

An expense is extraordinary or special if it is within the reasonable means of the parent’s expense and it is necessary for the child’s best interests. The amount of extra expenses is calculated by the net income of both 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.

When Does Child Support End?

Child support must be paid if a child is still under 18 years of age. In some situations, child support may be extended. This can occur if the child is still dependent on the parent for financial support and they are pursuing full-time education, or in some cases where the child has a disability or illness.

There are some circumstances which 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.

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 taxable income, however, child support payments are no longer taxable or tax-deductible. The current tax rules state that neither parent can claim child support on their taxes regardless of if they are the payor or recipient of the child support. This is different from spousal support payments which are deductible to the payor and must be included in the recipient’s income.

It is important to note that child support payments are always 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.

When are Child Support Payments Updated?

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:

  1. There are new special or extraordinary expenses.
  2. The person paying loses their job.
  3. The person paying makes more money than the custodial parent.
  4. The child changes their primary residence.
  5. 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 considered when deciding how much child support should be paid unless there is a shared custody arrangement in place.

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, then 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.

Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO), is a branch of the Ontario government that enforces child support order payments and agreements that are filed with its office.

The most common enforcement measures are:

  1. Support Deduction Orders (SDOs): An SDO is a court order that directs the employer of the paying parent to deduct child support directly from their earnings and send the payment to the FRO directly.
  2. Support Arrears Deduction (SAD) orders: This allows the FRO to deduct overdue payments directly from the paying parent’s income, wages, bank accounts or other assets.
  3. Income Withholding Orders: The court can issue an Income Withholding Order directing the paying parent’s employer to deduct child support payments from their income and remit the funds to the recipient parent.
  4. License suspension: including personal, professional or any other licenses issued by the government.
  5. Credit reporting: the FRO can report the non-payment of child support to credit bureaus, which may affect their credit rating.
  6. Enforcement through court action: the recipient parent can file a motion with the court to enforce the order. If the paying parent continues to be non-compliant, the court can issue fines, jail-time, or place a lien on their property.

How Does the FRO Enforce Child Support?

The FRO requires both parents’ information to contact parents and enforce child support. 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.

External Child Support Ontario Links

For a full list of the Ontario government child support services and guidelines visit any of the links below:

Each family’s situation is unique. It is important to contact an experienced family lawyer to help you understand your rights and responsibilities and negotiate your child support payments. Contact Epstein & Associates for a free consultation.

This blog is made available by the law firm publisher, Epstein & Associates, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. Any specific questions about your legal concerns please contact us now and speak to an expert today.