How does child support work in Ontario?

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Transcript of video

Welcome back everybody, I’m Ryan Keeney and I’m a lawyer at KPA Lawyers in Ontario. The topic of today’s article is “How does child support work in Ontario?”

If you’re just starting your journey into learning about child support in Ontario, this is a topic that can get fairly complex, which you might have already noticed just from the length of this article.

On the bright side, I believe that anyone with enough determination can learn exactly how child support laws work in Ontario. I’ve tried to explain the information in as plain-language as possible, while still going into a pretty significant amount of detail.

Whether you are a law student, junior family lawyer, or you’ve never been to law school, I’m confident that you’ll learn a lot through this article, and you’ll be able to understand the basic principles that I’ll be discussing.

Where do we get our child support laws?

First and foremost it’s important to keep in mind where we actually find the laws regarding child support.

Like in most types of law, it comes down to two places. The first source of our laws is “legislation”, which is written by different levels of government. Most Ontarians are already aware that Parliament in Ottawa writes our laws at the federal level of government, and of course, the Ontario Legislature writes our laws at the provincial level. Both of these levels of government have created legislation that deals with child support.

Okay so, the second place we find our laws is in what lawyers call the “common law”, or another term you might find more familiar is “case law”.

So why do I mention these two sources of law?

Well, throughout this article, I’m going to make reference to a lot of specific sections of our legislation, and I’m also going to talk about different cases where Judges have made decisions in Ontario. Those decisions are part of our case law, and that largely determines how we treat future cases.

How is child support generally calculated?

Okay, so now that you know where our laws come from, let’s jump into how child support is generally calculated. Although a number of factors can influence a Judge’s final decision, which I’ll talk about later in this article, for the most part, child support is often determined by what lawyers call “table amounts”. This name comes from the fact that the government has created legislation with illustrated tables where people can easily calculate their child support obligations based on their annual income, the province that the paying parent lives in, and the number of children that they have.

At the Canada-wide level, these tables can be found in the Federal Child Support Guidelines, regulation number SOR/97-175 and in Ontario, we have Ontario Regulation Number 391/97 also known simply as the Child Support Guidelines.

Now, don’t get intimated by those citation numbers and you shouldn’t feel like you have to memorize them. The important thing for you to keep in mind is that the child support table amounts in the Federal Guidelines are the same as the ones in the Ontario guidelines, the laws were simply written by two different levels of government.

Moreover, you don’t have to actually look up the table amounts yourself, since there are some great calculators available online, one of which I’ll talk about in a moment.

After you’re finished reading this entire article, you’ll understand why simply plugging in some basic information into an online calculator is simply not a replacement for having a lawyer in court, and no online calculator can predict with 100 percent certainty what a Judge will actually do with your specific case.

That being said, if you are going to use an online calculator, I’ve personally heard very good things about MySupportCalculator.ca

To be clear, they have not sponsored this article, and they have not paid me anything to mention them. I am mentioning this calculator simply because this is the calculator that I hear most often mentioned amongst my colleagues in the legal profession. If you look at their website, they also have comments from former family court Judges with positive things to say about them.

But remember, even MySupportCalculator.ca says on their website,

“This Calculator is intended to provide a starting point for child and spousal support calculations only, to be adjusted in accordance with the many other factors not considered by this calculator that could dramatically affect these results. Calculations from this site are not legal advice, and are not a substitute for working with a family law professional.”

Who is responsible for paying child support?

Okay, so now that you know a little bit about how child support is generally calculated, let’s talk about who is responsible for paying child support.

Obviously, most people are already aware that biological parents have obligations to support their children, but what about step-parents? A lot of people in Ontario are unaware of the fact that step-parents can also be required to pay child support under the law.

Let’s take a look at the legislation, and the case law, that explains this obligation. One of the important pieces of legislation that governs Family Law in Ontario is the Family Law Act, or FLA for short.

Section 1 of the FLA says that the definition of a parent “includes a person who has demonstrated a settled intention to treat a child as a child of his or her family, except under an arrangement where the child is placed for valuable consideration in a foster home by a person having lawful custody”

Section 1 of the FLA also says that the definition of a child “includes a person whom a parent has demonstrated a settled intention to treat as a child of his or her family, except under an arrangement where the child is placed for valuable consideration in a foster home by a person having lawful custody”.

Notice that the definitions don’t say anything about having a biological relationship with the child.

The question of whether or not a step-parent should have to pay child support was an issue that went to the Supreme Court of Canada back in 1999, in the case of Chartier v. Chartier[1]. In that case, the Supreme Court said “Even if a relationship has broken down after a separation or divorce, the obligation of a person who stands in the place of a parent to support a child remains the same.”

When a Judge is deciding whether or not it appears that a person was standing in place of a parent, as step-parents often do, Courts will look at the following factors:

  • Whether the child participates in the extended family in the same way a biological child would;
  • Whether the person provides financially for the child (depending on ability to pay);
  • Whether the person disciplines the child as a parent;
  • Whether the person represents to the child, to the family, to the world, that he or she is responsible as a parent to the child (either explicitly or implicitly);
  • And the nature or existence of the child’s relationship with the absent biological parent.

Regardless of whether a support payor is a step-parent or a biological parent, one of the important factors in determining child support obligations is how much time is spent with the child.

Generally, child support is paid by the parent that spends the least amount of time with the child to the parent who takes care of the child most of the time.

However, what if each parent spends at least 40 percent of their child’s time with them over the course of a year? This is what the law calls “shared parenting time”. If that is the situation, then you’ll need to look at section 9 of Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines.

Section 9 basically says that in cases of shared parenting time where each parent spends at least 40 percent of the child’s time with each parent, then Judges must consider the following three factors when deciding child support obligations:

  • First, the amounts set out in the applicable tables for each of the parents or spouses. Remember the table amounts I mentioned earlier in this article? If you forgot, you can always go back and watch that part again.
  • Second, the increased costs of shared parenting time arrangements; and
  • Third, the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each parent or spouse and of any child for whom support is sought.

If you want to take a really deep dive into how the courts will interpret Section 9 of the Guidelines, I recommend reading the Supreme Court of Canada case called Contino v. Leonelli-Contino[2].

Okay, let’s take a look at another typical scenario that can shift the balance of who pays child support and how much. The scenario I’m about to explain is called Split Parenting Time and this happens if there are two or more children, and each parent has the majority of parenting time with respect to one or more of those children. So for example, let’s say you’ve got a son and a daughter, and the son spends most of his time with dad, and the daughter spends most of her time with mom.

In this case, Section 8 of Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines basically says that the amount of child support is the difference between the amount that each parent would otherwise pay if they both claimed child support from each other.

So let’s put that in plain English. In the example I mentioned, let’s say the father says “I want child support for my son because he’s with me most of the time”, but the mom also says “I want child support for my daughter, because she’s with me most of the time”. In that case, a Judge would have to determine whose child support claim is larger, and then that person would get some money based on how much larger their claim is, so if I owe $200 per month in child support, but I’m also entitled to receive $300 per month in child support, I just end up receiving $100 per month in child support.

This is probably a good point of the article to mention that child support is the right of the child, so although the money is received by the recipient parent, it’s the best interests of the child that is the focus when determining child support. I know that might sound confusing but this is a foundational principal in family law, child support is not the right of the parent, it is the right of the child.

What are Section 7 expenses and how they do work?

Okay, if you’ve made it this far in the article, you now know quite a bit, like the difference between legislation and case law, how child support is calculated, who is responsible for paying it, and certain situations that can alter the calculations.

But no tutorial about child support in Ontario would be complete without a detailed discussion about what lawyers like to called “Section 7 expenses”. As you might have noticed by this point in the article, lawyers like to refer to certain laws by their section number in the legislation in which they are found. So when I use a phrase like “Section 7 expenses”, I’m referring to section 7 of Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines, which is the legislation that I mentioned earlier.

So what are section 7 expenses?

In a nutshell, these are “special or extraordinary expenses” that a court can order a support payor to pay, over and above the table amounts that I described earlier in this article.

Typical examples of section 7 expenses are things like fees for extra curricular activities, like dance classes, piano lessons, sports-related expenses, and any number of other extra-curriculars. But section 7 covers a lot more than just extra-curriculars activities.

The court can also order payment for…

  • child care expenses incurred as a result of the employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment of the parent or spouse who has the majority of parenting time
  • a portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child
  • health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counselling provided by a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses
  • extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs
  • and expenses for post-secondary education

And yes you heard that last one correctly, parents can be required to pay child support even when your child is in college or university, and is no longer a minor. There’s a common misconception that all child support stops when the child becomes a legal adult, but that is not true. People who are under that misunderstanding probably just aren’t aware of section 7 expenses.

Now, when a Judge is deciding whether or not to order a parent to fully cover, partially cover, or not cover at all any of the expenses that I mentioned under section 7, the law requires Judges to take into account the following factors:

  • One, the necessity of the expense in relation to the child’s best interests
  • Two, the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the parents or spouses, and those of the child
  • And three, the spending pattern of the parents or spouses in respect of the child during cohabitation, which means while the family was still previously living together.

What about when the support payor’s income is over $150,000 per year?

Okay, I’m going to spend some time addressing what happens if the person paying child support has an annual income of over $150,000 per year, so if this doesn’t apply to you, then you might want to just use those time-stamps in the description that I mentioned earlier, and skip ahead to the next section.

On the other than, if you think this information might be relevant to you or someone you know, then let’s get into it.

Section 4 of the Child Support Guidelines deals with situations where the parent responsible for paying child support has an annual gross income of over $150,000.

What section 4 is basically saying is that Judges have options and are entitled to exercise some degree of discretion when deciding what to do with situations where the support payor is earning this range of income.

Subsection 4(a) says that Judge could simply just use the table amounts that are already found in the Guidelines, plus any section 7 expenses that I discussed earlier in this article. However, because this might result in a child support payment that is inappropriate, either because it is too large or too small, Judges can also use an alternative approach described at subsection 4(b).

This is actually what happened in the case of R versus R at the Ontario Court of Appeal back in 2002[3]. The case records don’t disclose the parties last names, so we’re just going to refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. R.

In that case, the parties separated after eight years of marriage.

In the last five years of the marriage, the husband’s annual income averaged $1.4 million. After separation, his income doubled to $4.1 million annually.

Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, the table amount of child support for four children at that income was over $65,000 per month.

Like I mentioned before, under s. 4 of the Guidelines, if the paying spouse has an income over $150,000, the court may substitute an amount that it considers appropriate if it concludes that the table amount is inappropriate. The trial judge declined to award child support for four children in the Guidelines table amount.

The Judge found that the family lifestyle before separation was conservative and modest. The Judge decided that that the children would have continued to enjoy a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle had there been no separation. This meant the trial Judge felt that the table amount was inappropriate.

He ordered the husband to pay $16,000 per month for the four children, instead of $65,000 per month.

The wife was not particularly pleased with this outcome, so she appealed the trial Judge’s decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal partially agreed with the wife. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial Judge that the table amount of $65,000 per month would be inappropriate, but decided that an appropriate amount of child support in this case should have been a total of $32,000 per month to care for the four children. So this new amount was ultimately ordered by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The case of R v R is still used in Courts today 20 years later, and among other things, it illustrates one example of how Judges may deviate from the table amounts when dealing with cases of high-income earners. This is one example where online calculators and formulas would not have been helpful.

Before we leave this subject, I’ll mention one more case. In the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada case known as Francis versus Baker[4], similar issues were addressed, but the case had a different outcome.

In that case, the parties were married in 1979.  At that time, the husband was employed as a lawyer in a large Toronto law firm while the wife worked as a high school teacher. The parties’ first child was born in 1983. The husband left the family in July 1985 when their second child was five days old. The wife returned to work full-time three months later. The parties divorced in 1987. In 1988, the wife applied to the court for an increase in child support.  At trial, nine years later, she changed her case to include a claim for child support pursuant to the then new Federal Child Support Guidelines, which were to come into effect shortly and were intended to apply to all pending child support orders. 

The wife earned $63,000 per year at the date of trial. Under the terms of a separation agreement, she also received $30,000 per year in child support payments from the husband. The husband earned $945,538 per year and his net worth was estimated at $78,000,000.  The trial judge exercised her jurisdiction under the Divorce Act to award the respondent the Table amount of child support applicable to the husband’s income, or $10,034 per month for both children. That worked out to $120,408 per year in child support.

The husband appealed this decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal, but his appeal was dismissed. The husband then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and his appeal was dismissed again.

The Supreme Court said, “The appellant is in effect asking this Court to impose a cap or upper limit on child support payments. Parliament did not choose to impose such a cap, and the appellant has advanced no reason why this Court should do so. For these reasons, the appellant’s sheer size argument fails to convince me that the trial judge abused her discretion in awarding the Table amount on the facts of this case.”

What is imputing income and how does it work?

Okay, in this next part of the article, I’m going to be addressing another typical child support issue that comes up a lot, and it has to do with determining the income of a support payor.

Let’s say you’ve got a situation where a parent or spouse is intentionally unemployed or under-employed, or they are earning cash under the table which they don’t declare as income. There are a lot of ways that people try to reduce their child support obligations and they usually think that their creativity to avoid these obligations will work, but the legislation and the courts have processes in place to stop this type of behaviour.

In fact, under section 19 of the Child Support Guidelines, Judges can do something called “impute income” which means that they will make conclusions about what a person’s true income actually is, or what it should be, despite the fact that people are trying to artificially lower their income.

If you take a look at the list outlined in section 19, you’ll see that there are 9 situations where imputing income can happen:

  • the parent or spouse is intentionally under-employed or unemployed, other than where the under-employment or unemployment is required by the needs of any child or by the reasonable educational or health needs of the parent or spouse;
  • the parent or spouse is exempt from paying federal or provincial income tax;
  • the parent or spouse lives in a country that has effective rates of income tax that are significantly lower than those in Canada;
  • it appears that income has been diverted which would affect the level of child support to be determined under these guidelines;
  • the parent’s or spouse’s property is not reasonably utilized to generate income;
  • the parent or spouse has failed to provide income information when under a legal obligation to do so;
  • the parent or spouse unreasonably deducts expenses from income;
  • the parent or spouse derives a significant portion of income from dividends, capital gains or other sources that are taxed at a lower rate than employment or business income or that are exempt from tax; and
  • the parent or spouse is a beneficiary under a trust and is or will be in receipt of income or other benefits from the trust.

When it comes to what the case law has to say about section 19 of the Child Support Guidelines, two very often cited cases in Ontario are Drygala v. Pauli[5] and Lavie v. Lavie[6]. Both of those cases came from the Ontario Court of Appeal, which is Ontario’s highest level of court.

I’ve included links to both cases below, but for the sake of time and convenience, I’m only going to discuss the details of the Drygala case.

This case is important because it helps Judges and lawyers understand how to deal with cases where either the child support payor or the child support recipient is unemployed or underemployed for reasons related to pursuing educational goals, and the court needs to impute income for the purposes of calculating a fair amount of child support.

You might remember a moment ago when I listed out those 9 situations where income can be imputed, this case deals with the first item in that list.

The husband earned $21 per hour as a certified tool and die maker. After the parties separated, he did not look for any employment. He was on the payroll of his stepfather’s company for the years 1997 to 2000, but substantial portions of his income were retained by the company to reduce his alleged indebtedness.

Okay, so here are the facts of the Drygala case.

In 2000, the husband enrolled as a full-time student in a Bachelor of Arts program with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. He was substantially supported by his mother. The parties were granted a divorce in 2001 and he was ordered to pay child support for the parties’ one child in the amount of $266 per month based on an imputed annual income of $30,000.

In imputing income to the husband, the trial judge relied on s. 19(1)(a) of the Child Support Guidelines. Child support was ordered retroactively to June 15, 1998, the date of the original petition for divorce. The husband appealed the trial Judge’s decision.

The Ontario Court of Appeal granted the appeal in part. Although the appellate court agreed with most of the trial Judge’s reasoning, the Court of Appeal decided to reduce the imputed annual income from $30,000 to a lower amount of $16,500 per year.

Like I mentioned before, if you want to read the full analysis regarding how the appellate court arrived at its decisions in either the Drygala case or the Lavie case, check out the links. But for now, let’s move on to the next topic.

What is retroactive child support and how does it work?

Whether you’re paying child support or you’re receiving child support, it’s important to know what Retroactive Child Support is.

This concept is exactly what it sounds like. Judges have the power to order people to retroactively pay child support to make up for any period of time in the past where the support payor should have been paying support but was not. Judges can also do this where the support payor was making payments but was paying a smaller amount than what the recipient was entitled to under the Child Support Guidelines. This concept also applies when the support payor sees their income go up but does not increase support payments to the new table amount.

Basically even if a support payor has been getting away for years with either not paying or paying too little, Courts can still look far back into the past and slap a large bill on the support payor.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the parent receiving child support money is expected under the law to actively pursue child support and any increases to which their children are entitled.

If you take a look at section 25 of the Guidelines, a support payor must, upon written request by the support recipient, disclose information about their current income. If the recipient parent knows or thinks the payor has increased their income, then he or she can apply to change the child support order and have that new order apply retroactively.

Now, when determining whether or not it is appropriate to issue a court order regarding retroactive support, a Judge will consider the following four factors:

  • One, the reason for the delay on the part of the recipient parent in seeking support;
  • Two, whether or not there was blameworthy conduct by the payor parent;
  • Three, the circumstances of the child or children;
  • And four, the potential hardship to the payor.

These four factors come from four different appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada, which the court heard together, and developed a framework for addressing all four appeals, and any similar cases in Canada in the future. Quoting directly from the Supreme Court, the court had this to say…

“In determining whether to make a retroactive award, a court should strive for a holistic view of the matter and decide each case on the basis of its particular facts. The payor parent’s interest in certainty must be balanced with the need for fairness to the child and for flexibility. In doing this, the court should consider the reason for the recipient parent’s delay in seeking child support, the conduct of the payor parent, the past and present circumstances of the child, including the child’s needs at the time the support should have been paid, and whether the retroactive award might entail hardship.”

The court also goes on to put a limit on how far back into the past Judges should go when making orders about retroactive child support. Basically, the limit is 3 years into the past, but there can be exceptions to that limit if there was blameworthy conduct on the part of the support payor.

I don’t want to oversimplify what the Supreme Court said about retroactive child support, so if you are a law student, lawyer or litigant involved in a family court case, and you want to have a really clear understanding of exactly how the Supreme Court designed the legal framework for retroactive child support cases, I highly recommend that you follow the link and read the Supreme Court’s decision in the four appeals[7].

What is undue hardship and how does it work?

Okay, so congratulations on making it this far in the tutorial today. I know we’ve covered a lot but the next topic is going to be of particular interest to people who pay child support, but it could also be something to keep in mind for people who receive child support.

The topic for this next section of the article is Undue Hardship.

Although the law is very strict when it comes to making sure that children receive financial support from their parents, this strictness is balanced by the fact that support payors are may raise legal arguments about undue hardship that they might experience, so that a fair child support order can be made.

 Section 10 of the Child Support Guidelines goes into detail about how the law regarding undue hardship works. Before I start quoting from section 10, I want to make one quick comment about how paragraphs are organized in legislation. It’s very common that a particular section will have many subsections, so for example, I might say something like section 10, subsection 2, or section 10, subsection 6. This can sound confusing if you’re not dealing with legislation all day long, but if you can get really comfortable at understanding the different subsections of a particular law, you’ll get a much better insight into how that law works.

Okay, so let’s take a look at section 10 now. The wording of section 10 says, “On the application of either spouse or an applicant under section 33 of the Act, a court may award an amount of child support that is different from the amount determined under any of sections 3 to 5, 8 or 9 if the court finds that the parent or spouse making the request, or a child in respect of whom the request is made, would otherwise suffer undue hardship.”

That might sound like a lot of confusing legal jargon, but the basic idea is that the Judge has the discretion to change the amount of child support if the support payor would suffer undue hardship.

So the question you might be asking at this point is, what constitutes undue hardship?

Subsection 2 within section 10 contains a list of legally recognized circumstances that might cause undue hardship. Some of the typical reasons for undue hardship is certain kinds of debt, unusually high expenses due to parenting a child, having family court obligations to another person (such as if a person has multiple child support payments from multiple relationships), and a few other reasons.

It’s very important to keep in mind that even if you successfully convince a Judge a certain level of child support would cause undue hardship, the Judge still has the discretion to deny your request to lower the child support payment, and this is addressed at subsection 3 within section 10.

This particular subsection says that “Despite a determination of undue hardship under subsection (1), an application under that subsection must be denied by the court if it is of the opinion that the household of the parent or spouse who claims undue hardship would, after determining the amount of child support under any of sections 3 to 5, 8 or 9, have a higher standard of living than the household of the other parent or spouse.”

Now, let’s say you’re a support recipient, and you’re not quite happy about your support payor claiming undue hardship, and let’s say that the Judge agrees with the support payor, you’re probably going to be even more unhappy.

Fortunately, subsection 6 within section 10 says that “Where the court makes an order for the support of a child in a different amount under this section, it must record its reasons for doing so”.

This might not sound very helpful, but when you have written reasons from a Judge, it can help your lawyer look for any grounds for appeal, and perhaps have that decision reversed at a higher level of court.

How is child support enforced?

Okay so it’s all well and good that a family court Judge has decided your case and gone through a tremendous amount of legal analysis to determine a fair and reasonable about of child support, but that still leaves one practical problem, how do you actually enforce child support?

After you get an order for child support from a Judge, child support is enforced in Ontario through the Family Responsibility Office, otherwise knowns as FRO. They are able to do carry out their duties under the authority of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act of 1996 and the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act of 2002.

FRO plays an important role in ensuring the financial security of families who count on court-ordered support. They collect payments from the person who pays the support, and they send those payments to the person who is entitled to it.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that FRO does not make payments to a recipient when the payor misses a payment, they cannot change the terms of court orders or domestic contracts (including the support amount), and they cannot get involved in child custody or access issues.

People are often surprised at just how much power FRO has to enforce child support orders. For example, they can take the money directly out of your bank account (this is known as garnishing), they can report an unpaid child support debt to a credit bureau, they can suspend your driver’s licence, put a lien on your property, seize real estate that you own, report you to your professional regulatory body or occupational organization. FRO can even go to court and ask a Judge to order a support payor to spend some time in jail for failing to cooperate.

Practically speaking, FRO encourages people to work cooperatively with them before escalating to more aggressive enforcement steps. FRO encourages support payors to reach out and contact them to avoid enforcement actions if your financial situation changes, such as due to losing your job, you fall behind on your payments, your name, address or employer/source of income changes, or you believe that your obligation to pay support has ended.

Remember, the proper place to make changes to child support orders is in court, not through FRO, but there is some reasonable amount of flexibility available through their office.

Speaking of making changes to child support, that’s going to be the topic of the next section of this article, so let’s get into it.

How can child support be changed?

Okay so a common question the family lawyers at KPA receive is how can support payments be changed.

The process can look quite different depending on whether or not the support payor and the support recipient agree to the change. If they can agree, then they can make an agreement. The agreement must be signed and dated by both parents and a witness.

If the new agreement changes an old agreement that was filed with the court, or a Notice of Calculation, or a Notice of Recalculation, then any new agreement should also be filed with the court. If it is not filed with the court, the Family Responsibility Office cannot enforce the new support amount.

If the new agreement changes a final court order, the parents need to ask the court to change their order based on their new agreement.

In some cases, parents can use the online Child Support Service (CSS) to change child support. Based on new income information, CSS sends the parents a Notice of Recalculation that tells them how much child support must be paid.

However, you cannot use the service if you used CSS to decide or change child support less than 6 months ago.

Remember, this service is not available to everyone. After you visit the website that I’ve linked, you’ll be able to verify whether or not you are eligible to use the service, based on your case.

Okay so let’s say the support payor and support recipient can’t agree on the change.

Then your two most common options are going to be the online CSS system, or going to court. If you are eligible to use CSS, then you might be happy to know that only one parent needs to ask to change child support online. The other parent does not need to agree. They will simply get a notice in the mail from the Ministry of the Attorney General that says the other parent applied to change child support online and CSS agrees that it can make the change.

The payor parent can disagree if the information the other parent gave was wrong. If they do not respond within 25 days of the notice being sent, CSS might change their support payment without their response.

The second option is to go to court using a process called a Motion to Change, and I would highly recommend using a lawyer for this process.

Unless the other parent agrees, the court only makes a change if there has been a significant change, or what the law calls a “material change in circumstances”. For example, if:

  • the payor parent’s income has gone up or down
  • the child has left the parent’s house voluntarily
  • the child is now living with the payor parent
  • the child is no longer in daycare or full-time school

A change in the income of the parent receiving support is usually not a reason to change the child support order. This is because that parent’s income is not usually taken into account when support is calculated.

Closing comments

Well congratulations on making it to the end of this overview of how child support works in Ontario. Hopefully you learned something you didn’t know before, and found some useful insight.

As always, it’s important to remember that this article is not intended as legal advice, and you should always speak with a qualified family lawyer if you have questions about family law in Ontario


[1] Chartier v. Chartier, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 242

[2] Contino v. Leonelli-Contino, 2005 SCC 63

[3] R. v. R., 2002 CanLII 41875 (ON CA), <https://canlii.ca/t/1db65&gt;

[4] Francis v. Baker, 1999 CanLII 659 (SCC), [1999] 3 SCR 250, <https://canlii.ca/t/1fqjm&gt;

[5] Drygala v. Pauli, 2002 CanLII 41868 (ON CA), <https://canlii.ca/t/1ccgs&gt;

[6] Lavie v. Lavie, 2018 ONCA 10 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/hpmsh&gt;

[7] B.S. v. S.R.G.; L.J.W. v. T.A.R.; Henry v. Henry; Hiemstra v. Hiemstra, 2006 SCC 37 < https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2311/index.do&gt;

[8] http://www.ontario.ca/page/set-up-or-update-child-support-online

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How does child support work in Ontario?

Book an appointment with a family law lawyer (click here) Transcript of video Welcome back everybody, I’m Ryan Keeney and I’m a lawyer at KPA Lawyers in Ontario. The topic of today’s article is “How does child support work in Ontario?” If you’re just starting your journey into learning about child support in Ontario, this is a topic that can get fairly complex, which

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