Do I have to pay child support? If so, how much?
Updated: Jun 15
One of the most commonly asked questions is “Do I have to pay my ex child support for our child?” or “How much child support do I have to pay my ex for our child?”. Thankfully, in Canada, there is a set of guidelines called the Federal Child Support Guidelines, to help out in that regard. The Guidelines have established who must pay child support and how much child support they must pay.
Do I Have to Pay Child Support?
Child support is typically payable by the non-custodial parent. That is, the parent that has the child for less than 40% of the time.
For example, if the child is primarily with Parent A but spends alternate weekends with Parent B, then Parent B must pay child support to Parent A.
A shared parenting arrangement, such as a week about arrangement wherein both parents have the child equal amounts of time, can also lead to payable child support.
For example, if the child is with both parents equal amounts of time, and Parent A makes $50,000.00 per year and Parent B makes $75,000.00 per year; Parent A’s child support obligations would be $461.00 per month and Parent B’s child support obligations would be $700.00 per month.
In this case, Parent B’s child support obligations would be offset by Parent A’s obligations. So, Parent B would be ordered to pay the difference of $239.00 per month to Parent A.
How Much Child Support Do I Have to Pay?
As per section 15.1(3) of the Divorce Act, any orders made by the Court regarding child support must be in accordance with the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines apply to both interim and final child support orders.
The Child Support Guidelines set out the amount of child support payable, based on the number of children for which support is payable and the payor’s annual income (as determined by Sections 16-20 of the Guidelines).
Section 16 of the Guidelines state that the payor’s income is their Line 150 income from their T1 General Form. This income is subject to adjustment to account for the applicable deductions listed in Schedule III of the Guidelines.
Practically speaking, it is not uncommon for the courts to use the payor’s Line 150 income from their Notice of Assessment to determine income.
The income of the parent with primary care of the child is not relevant for child support calculations.
What If I Can’t Afford to Pay Child Support?
The Guidelines have a “floor” to ensure that persons with income below the table minimum do not have to pay support. However, if your income exceeds that floor, there are still options.
Section 10(1) of the Guidelines allows the court to award an amount of child support that strays from the Guidelines, if the parent against which child support is ordered can prove undue hardship.
Section 10(2) of the Guidelines sets out a non-exhaustive list of circumstances that could lead to a successful claim of undue hardship. They are as follows:
The parent has responsibility for an unusually high level of debts reasonably incurred to support the spouses and the child(ren) prior to separation or to earn a living;
The parent has unusually high expenses in relation to exercising access to the child(ren);
The parent has a legal duty to support a child, other than the subject child, who is:
(a) Under the age of majority; or (b) The age of majority or over, but is unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to obtain the necessaries of life; and
The parent has a legal duty to support any person who is unable to obtain the necessaries of life due to an illness or disability.
Changes to Child Support Payments
If there is a material change in circumstances after an order is made regarding child support, one may move the court through a Motion to Change to alter their child support payments.
Changing ordered child support payments is not automatic. The Family Responsibility Office (also called FRO) will not automatically adjust your child support payments.
If you have questions about if or how much child support you should be paying or receiving, give us a call for a free 30-minute consultation.
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