How child support works in Ontario

Father holding out hand for child

The most sensitive and serious problems you may encounter during your separation or divorce revolve around what will happen to your children. As parents, your family is your number one priority. You and your partner must work together to find ways to maintain a healthy living environment for your child(ren) after your divorce is finalized as well as while you work through your separation.

As Canadian law holds, both parents are responsible for providing proper financial support for their children. But how is it calculated? How much will you be responsible for paying? What if the child is not biologically yours? In this article, we will answer the most common questions we receive from our clients about child support which is now referred to as parenting decisions and parenting time.

How is child support calculated? 

Child support payments are determined based on formulas specified by the Child Support Guidelines. The Child Support Guidelines are based on the parent’s income, the number of children they have to support, and the province in which they reside.

To quickly see how much you owe in child support each month, visit the Department of Justice website and use the Child Support Table available.

If a payor is self-employed or does not declare all of their income, it will be more difficult to determine the amount of child support they owe. With someone who is not self-employed and is considered an employee, they will receive a T4 which outlines their income. Next, their Income Tax Return would be examined, along with the amount of support owed by the payor. However, when a payor is self-employed, their income may not be the same as that declared on their Income Tax Return. This is why it is extremely important to work with a lawyer who has experience or specializes in working on child support cases. They can help you investigate their income and declare the proper amount they owe in child support.

Do I have to pay child support?

In Canada, the law considers child support to be for the benefit of the child. The amount a payor owes is based on the payor’s income only – the recipient’s income is not relevant unless each parent has care of the children more than 40% of the time.

Many parties express concern that their support payments will not be spent on the child – which in some cases is a valid concern. However, it is virtually impossible to convince a court that you should not pay child support. The law assumes that the recipient of the child support will use that money for the benefit of the child.

How is child support collected?

Once the court has made an order for child support, it must be enforced. Enforcement in Ontario is done through a provincial government agency known as the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The FRO collects the payments directly from the payor’s wages. However, a payor can also make arrangements with the FRO to make payments to them directly. Once the payment is received, the FRO will either send a cheque or a direct deposit to the other parent.

If a payment is missed, the FRO will take action to enforce the order of agreement. Again, if the support payor is self-employed, it can be more difficult for the FRO to enforce a parenting support order. However, the FRO has numerous ways of enforcing an order to ensure the payor complies with the support provisions. This can include revoking a person’s drivers’ licence, passport, and so on.

Many people do not use the FRO for the collection of support. They just voluntarily make arrangements to pay it directly and in a timely manner.

Who is responsible for paying child support if we share joint custody?

Joint custody is when both parents share the parenting time of their children. It is awarded to families when a judge feels that both parents can reach amicable solutions on parenting matters. It does not necessarily need to be equal joint custody, but as long as one parent shares at least 40% of the time, it is considered joint custody.

To determine the child support owed if parents share custody, the court will need to consider various factors. They will start by reviewing each parent’s annual income along with the associated costs with joint custody. The judge may also consider whether a parent is living with a new spouse or has other dependants.

Often parents pay each other. You just pay based on your income and your spouse will pay according to their income. One payment is set off against the other.

Do I have to pay any more for child support, aside from the base amount determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines?

The Federal Child Support Guidelines outline that in addition to the base amount of child support, a payor must also pay their share of a child’s additional or extraordinary expenses. These expenses include but are not limited to the following:

  • Health expenses
  • Daycare expenses
  • Expenses for a primary or secondary school education or post-secondary education
  • Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities

To determine the amount owed, the expense is shared by both parties in proportion to the incomes.

My ex-partner has sole custody, and I am not allowed to visit my child(ren). Do I still owe child support?

Child support is for the benefit of the child. That being said, it does not matter if the payor has visiting rights with their child or not. If you have a child and you are earning an income, you are responsible for paying child support.

If I am not the biological parent of the child, do I still owe child support? 

If you have treated and raised a child as if they were your biological child, you will most likely have to pay child support. If you are not the biological parent of a child you are being asked to provide support for, it is always a good idea to seek professional help from a lawyer who specializes in child support issues. The amount of support paid by a step-parent is more complicated than by a biological parent.

Do you have questions for us or need our help? We are here for you. 

Whether you need us to answer a few questions for you, or you are seeking legal representation, we are here for you at Galbraith Family Law. We are committed to providing our clients with the best possible services for their specific needs and family law issue. If you are struggling to determine or agree upon child support or any other family law issue relating to parenting orders, our team of lawyers can help you ease the process and find the best solution for your family. To get started with us, give us a call at one of our five offices across Ontario to book your consultation today. For our Toronto offices call 647-370-8965, for our Newmarket office call 289-210-4692 or you can reach us at our Barrie office at 705-230-2734.

Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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