Divorce can be contentious, especially when children are involved. Not only are assets divided, but one parent is now the primary custodial parent to the couple’s children. Unfortunately, sometimes, in the emotional aftermath of a divorce or separation your spouse may withhold child support. When this happens, it is important to know what rights you have to ensure that your children’s best interests are protected.
Does My Spouse Have to Pay Child Support if We Are Just Separated?
If you are separated from your spouse — irrespective of the matter of a final dissolution of your marriage — the non-custodial parent is still obligated to continue to help support the children. It is in your children’s best interest to make sure all support agreements are in writing, whether court-ordered or drafted privately between you and your spouse. Only written agreements can be enforced. To further ensure the protection of your children’s interests, your Ottawa child support lawyer can register your agreement with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), the provincial agent that enforces child support orders.
Can I Withhold Visitation Until My Ex Pays?
Child support and visitation are entirely separate matters and must be treated as such. As tempting as it may be to withhold visitation to force the other parent to pay support, the law is very specific about this: your ex’s refusal or inability to pay child support does not mean that you can withhold access to your child. If your former spouse will not or cannot pay child support, keep a detailed log of all missed payments. Make sure to contact your lawyer for assistance to enforce your child support order.
What Recourse Do I Have?
Your Ottawa child support lawyer can help you recover your support via FRO. Child support is a right of the child and the amount of support is based upon the payor’s income. A formula is in place, known as the Child Support Guidelines, which calculates support based on income, the province in which the payor resides, and the number of children. This formula is almost always followed by the courts. If a payor fails to pay, then use FRO to collect. If the payor fails to disclose his/her income, then you can ask the court to order financial disclosure. A court can adjust support and fix arrears if you have not been provided with the correct information with which to calculate child support. FRO will enforce child support and spousal support orders.
The enforcement program or federal government have several measures they can utilize to enforce child support:
- Seize property
- Suspend the driver’s license, passport, and marine and aviation licenses of the party in default
- Garnish wages, bank accounts, and income tax refunds, and employment insurance benefits.
- Possible fines, legal fees, and jail time
It’s important for both you and your spouse to remember that most agreements do not have a term limit. Unless your support agreement explicitly states when child support payments will end (for example, when the children reach a certain age), support payments must continue until a judge modifies your support order or both parents agree to a termination. Child support can continue as long as a child is a “child of the marriage” which can mean when the child is 18 or over but still in attendance full-time at a post-secondary educational institution, or otherwise unable to withdraw from parental control.
Whether separating or divorcing, it is always a good idea to consult with a qualified family lawyer to help you navigate the tricky waters of child support agreements and enforcement. If you are having trouble getting the other parent to pay child support, get help from Ottawa child support lawyer, Tanya Davies. Call our office at 613-688-9462 today!