Child Support – Family Lawyer in Ottawa
There are specific guidelines in regards to child support under federal and provincial law. The idea behind the guidelines is to make child support easier to figure out. Support is calculated based upon the number of children, the income of the payor and the province in which the payor resides.
While these guidelines have made it easier for separating and divorcing couples to determine who is responsible for payments and the amount, there are sometimes problems that need to be addressed. Some of the more common issues Davies Family Law Firm has assisted clients with include establishing the income of the payor, enforcement of payments, calculating support where parties have shared parenting or where each parent has children living with him/her, and calculating additional payments for extraordinary expenses.
Even though a couple is splitting up, it does not mean they are relieved of their responsibilities as parents. Both parents have a financial obligation to provide support for their children. Often, one parent is the primary or residential parent, where the children remain in the home and with that parent the majority of the time. The other parent pays child support to provide financial assistance for the children and cover normal expenses, like food and clothing, and has regular visitation with the children.
How Are Child Support Payments Determined?
The amount of child support one parent is expected to pay the other is determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines consider at how much money the payor parent earns and how many children are in the household. The guideline formula then applies to the person paying support. Usually, the income used is that set out in line 150 of that person’s most recent income tax return. Child support payments can be adjusted annually based upon the most recent tax return.
Next, the court evaluates the custody agreement and child visitation schedule to determine the actual amount of time the children will be spending with each parent. In addition, other expenses related to the care of the children, like healthcare, educational activities, childcare, and extracurricular activities are taken into consideration. If the non-custodial parent is paying for all of these extra expenses entirely on their own, the court might reduce the child support payment amount based on the principle of undue hardship or order that the parties choose their children’s activities carefully. Undue hardship is very difficult to prove.
What about Shared Custody Arrangements?
In cases where both parents agree to split the custody of the children and have an equal amount of time with them, child support is handled differently. If the children live with each parent at least forty percent of the time or more, the court views this as shared parenting and neither parent may be required to pay child support to the other, or the parent with higher income would pay a set-off amount to the other parent. On the other hand, in joint or sole custody arrangements, where one parent has the children less than forty percent of the time, they are considered the non-custodial parent and are responsible for paying child support in accordance with the guidelines.
How Are Child Support Payments Enforced?
Child support payments are processed by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The FRO is notified by the court. The non-custodial parent pays child support to the FRO. The FRO processes the payment and then reissues it to the custodial parent. The FRO tracks all child support payment information in their system including non-payments, short payments, and arrears. In the event the non-custodial parent decides to not make payments, the FRO is able to take various legal actions against them, including the suspension of a driver’s license and garnishment of wages.
Can Child Support Agreements Be Modified?
After the parties agree to or the court issues a child support order, it may be modified in the future if there are changes to the status of a parent’s employment, earnings, or custody of the minor children. In order to have an agreement or a court order modified, the parent requesting the modification must have their family lawyer initiate the process. The lawyer files the request along with supporting documentation to the court and asks for a hearing date in front of a judge. It is important to remember, the non-custodial parent is still responsible for all current child support payments until the judge approves the variation of support. The court will require proof of a change in circumstances before amending the support order.
For more information about child support agreements or modifications to existing agreements or court Orders, contact Davies Law Firm and schedule a consultation appointment now by calling 613-688-0462.