Fact Sheet: Child Support

Publication Date: 
Resource Origin: 

by Pamela Cross, LLB

Child support is the money paid by the parent who spends less time with the child to the parent who has primary responsibility for the child.  It is used to pay for costs and expenses related to the child.

What are the Child Support Guidelines?

Child support is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines, which are a set of rules and tables for calculating the amount of support that must be paid.  There are both federal and provincial guidelines.

With some exceptions, it is the income of the person paying the support and the number of children that determine the amount of support to be paid.  The income of the parent receiving the child support is not relevant.

Who has to pay child support?

All parents, including step-parents, have child support responsibilities. The extent of this will depend on the length and nature of their relationship with the children.

For how long is child support paid?

Child support is paid until the child is 18, with some exceptions.  It can end earlier if the child becomes independent (for example, gets married, has a child or leaves home). It can run past 18 if the child is still dependent on the parent because of a disability or because she/he is enrolled full-time in post-secondary education.

Will it affect my social assistance?

If the custodial parent is receiving social assistance, she is expected to apply for child support - there is an exception to this if the person paying the support has been violent towards either the recipient or the child.  The amount of child support she receives will be deducted dollar for dollar from the amount of her social assistance.

If the person paying support is receiving social assistance, he is still expected to pay child support, even if it is a nominal amount.

Will it affect my taxes?

Child support is not taxable income to the person receiving it. The person paying it cannot write it off as a tax deduction.

How can I change the amount of child support?

Child support orders can be changed when there has been a significant change in the circumstances.  For example:

  • the child becomes independent
  • the child moves to live with the other parent
  • the payer's income increases
  • the payer's income decreases

This is called a child support variation.

When don't the Child Support Guidelines apply?

There are a number of situations in which the Child Support Guidelines either don't apply or are modified.

If the child has special needs, the person paying the support may have to contribute to these expenses in addition to paying the Guideline level of support. These special needs could be health-related (such as orthodontic care, ongoing medication or therapy) or education-related (such as tutoring for a learning disability or learning aids) or, in rare circumstances, extracurricular activities.

If the child spends at least 40% of her time with both parents,  the calculation of child support will reflect the incomes and expenses of both parents. If the children are split between the parents, with one living with each, there is also a different calculation. In both these cases, the parent with the higher income will still pay support, but the amount to be paid is calculated differently.

If the payer's income is more than $150,000, the child support to be paid on the income above this amount is calculated differently than the amount to be paid on his income up to $150,000.

How do I get my child support?

Child support is enforced through a government office called the Family Responsibility Office, known as FRO.

Child support orders are filed with FRO, which then collects the payment from the payer and issues it to the recipient.

FRO usually has the support deducted automatically from the payer's pay cheque. If he is unemployed or self-employed, FRO may garnish his bank account to get the money.  In some cases, the payer sends cheques directly to FRO.

When a parent does not pay child support, FRO can put pressure on him by doing such things as suspending his driver's licence, cancelling his passport, or taking away his hunting and fishing licences.

What if he moves outside Ontario?

Ontario has reciprocal agreements with all other provinces and territories, the United States and some other countries, so child support orders can be enforced even if the payer leaves Ontario.

Can I deny him access if he is not paying child support?

No. In law, support and access are not connected.  A parent cannot deny access because child support is not being paid, and a parent cannot refuse to pay support if he does not have access.

What are some of the challenges?

Child support can be challenging, especially for women whose partners are abusive:

  • the abuser often thinks of the child support as money going in to the mother's pocket rather than as money for the support of the children
  • if he is self-employed or works under the table for cash, it can be difficult to calculate his real income
  • he may quit his job in order to evade his financial responsibilities towards his children
  • he may change jobs or move around frequently to make enforcement difficult
  • FRO is under-resourced, with the result it can take quite awhile to get an order enforced

This Fact Sheet contains general legal information only.  It is not a legal document, nor is it a replacement for legal advice.  Anyone in a situation involving family, immigration or refugee law is strongly urged to meet with a lawyer to understand fully their rights and responsibilities, the legal options available to them and appropriate legal processes.  A lawyer can interpret the law and provide advice based on the personal facts and information in the specific case.

For information about finding a lawyer in your community, contact Legal Aid Ontario at 1 800 668 8258 or 417 979 1446.

You can also visit Legal Aid Ontario online at www.legalaid.on.ca/en/locate/default.asp