Child support and changing the amount of support
If parents have separated or divorced and their children live all or most of the time with one of the parents, the other parent is usually responsible to pay child support to help provide for the children. The amount of child support will generally depend on how many children are being supported and the amount of money being earned by the parent paying the child support. Payments, from the parent who does not have custody to the parent who does, are usually made through a government office and sometimes directly from the one parent to the other.
In situations of joint or shared parenting or split custody, the responsibility for child support may be reduced depending upon the extent of parenting assumed by each parent and by their respective incomes.
Which children must be supported
Child support is generally available for any child under the age of eighteen. In some circumstances, child support does not have to be paid for a child who is 16 or 17 if they have chosen to move out of the family home and no longer live by their parent’s rules. Child support can also be required for children over the age of 18 if they are unable to withdraw from parental support, such as children who are still in full-time attendance at school or unable to support themselves because of disability.
Generally speaking, child support obligations will relate to the birth parents. However it is important to remember that anyone who treats the child of another as their own child may also assume a legal obligation of child support. A typical illustration would be where a man marries a woman who has two young children by a previous marriage. In the course of marriage the man may form a close bond with those children and come to be regarded as a “father” for the purposes of paying child support.
How is support determined?
Child support can be agreed to between the parents or set by the courts. Until recently, the amount of child support was determined on a case-by-case basis. However, the initial amount to be paid is now based on Federal and Provincial Government Guidelines implemented in 1997. These Guidelines are a set calculation to determine the amount of support. The calculation is based on the actual income of the parent who does not have custody and the number of children being supported. The rules determining “income” can be complex but usually are calculated on a spouse’s total annual income.
There are also issues involving “add-ons” such as day-care and undue hardship that may have to be resolved.
For example, a parent who does not have custody and who earns $25,000 per year would have to pay $211 per month for one child or $375 per month for two children. If a parent who does not have custody earns $80,000 per year, they would have to pay $719 per month for one child or $1,159 per month for two children. Child support payments are no longer tax deductible, or taxable in the hands of the recipient
Support orders made before the new Guidelines
Support orders made before the Guidelines came into effect are still valid, but either parent can apply to the court to have the order changed using the new Guidelines.
Changing the amount of support
At any time, either parent can apply to the court to have the amount of support changed if there has been a significant change in circumstances. For example, you may want to reduce the amount of child support you are paying if your income suddenly declines.
Although the new Guidelines are usually closely followed, there can still be many factors which affect how much child support should be paid. A lawyer can help you with your particular situation. There are special rules which may change the Guideline amount where the payor spouse is earning over $150,000 annually or where there are “special or extraordinary expenses”. The rules also change where the “child is over the age of majority.” There are special rules to adjust payments in the case of “shared custody” or “split custody.” There is also relief available for cases of “undue hardship” being experienced by the payor spouse based on a relative standard of living test.