Child Support in Ontario

There are few things in family law (or law in general) as certain a child support. Generally speaking, if you have a child, and that child lives with another person around 40% of the time or more, you must pay child support. The amount you must pay is usually set in a table based on your income and the number of children you are paying for. (As long as all those children live together–if not, things may be slightly more complicated).

If you end up in front of a judge, you will almost certainly be ordered to pay child support if the above is true. If you are negotiating with the other parent of your child, you can make an agreement about child support that differs from the normal “table amount” but if the agreement isn’t fair and doesn’t properly care for the child, a judge may change the agreement if he or she is ever asked to.

In Ontario, the obligation to pay child support comes from both the Divorce Act and the Ontario Family Law Act. If you are or were married to the other parent of your child, the Divorce Act and the Ontario FLA will apply to you. Even if you were never married, the Ontario FLA will apply.

Both these laws say the same thing: if either you or the other parent of your child asks a judge, the judge can make an order for one of you to pay child support. Practically speaking, you can bet that a judge will make that order.

In BC, the obligation to pay child support comes again from the Divorce Act and the BC Family Law Act. The Divorce Act works the same in BC as it does in Ontario and it still only applies to people who are or were married. The BC FLA is extremely similar to the Ontario FLA and the Divorce Act. The only real difference is that the BC FLA talks about guardians of children (which usually but not always means the child’s parents) and it allows a few other people to make applications for child support.

As I said above, the amount of child support you pay is based on a table. The only things that matter are how many children are in question and what your income is. The other parent’s income does not matter (unless he or she also has to pay you child support–see below).

If you earn over $150,000 per year, the amount you must pay may be different from what the tables say. If your income is $155,000 per year, don’t get your hopes up. If it’s significantly above $150,000, and if your situation is complicated, you may have an argument to pay something different than the normal Guidelines amount. Those cases are the exception though–if you think they apply to you, you should talk to a lawyer.

The tables vary a bit from province to province, because each province has the right to create their own Child Support Guidelines, including their own support tables.

The Guideline tables are updated occasionally. They have been updated twice since they came into force on May 1, 1997: first on May 1, 2006 and again on December 31, 2011.

The amount of child support a person pays differs slightly between Ontario and BC, but not enough to worry about. For example, with two children, and an income of $100,000 per year, in Ontario you must pay $1,416 per month. In BC, you must pay $1,478 per month.

Generally, you use the table for the province that the payor lives in. If the payor lives outside of Canada, you use the table that the recipient lives in. If both parents live outside of Canada, you use the Federal Tables.

Above I said if your child lives with another person about 40% of the time or more, you must pay child support. But what if your child lives 50% with you and 50% with the other parent?

In that case, you owe each other child support. Rather than both of you sending money to the other, though, almost all parents arrange for the parent who owes the higher amount to just pay difference.

So if you earn $100,000 and the other parent earns $40,000 (for example), you live in Ontario, and you have two children that live equally with both of you, then presumably you would pay $1,416 – $579 = $837 per month.

Note, though, that calculating how much time a child “lives with” each parent is not as straightforward as you might imagine. People get into creative arguments about that issue.

Even though child support is support owed to a child, almost always, the support is paid to the other person (usually the other parent) that the child lives with. This irritates some people because they really dislike their children’s other parent–regardless, it’s a bad idea to unilaterally pay support directly to your child instead of to your child’s parent. Child support is supposed to pay for basic needs like clothes, food and shelter. Those are things the other parent pays for.

It’s a good idea to always keep some record for any child support you pay. You might need it to prove you paid later.

Ontario and BC both have government organizations that collect and forward support payments from payors to recipients. In Ontario, this organization is called the Family Responsibility Office (or “FRO”) and in BC it is called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (or “FMEP”). Other provinces have similar organizations.

There is no charge to use the services of the FRO or FMEP. Either the recipient or the payor can register. Once one of them registers, all payments should be made directly to the organization that the party registered with.

Assuming payments are made, FRO or FMEP will keep a record, and forward the entire payment directly on to the recipient.

If the payor misses payments, the FRO or FMEP will take care of all enforcement proceedings, so the recipient doesn’t need to waste time and money chasing the payor for support.

In some very rare cases, a person may convince a judge that he or she should pay less than the table amount of child support because of an “undue hardship” to the payor. If you think you have an argument to pay less than the Guidelines amount, you should talk to a lawyer. And don’t get your hopes up–judges want children to receive child support, the rules about undue hardship claims are reasonably strict and judges are very reluctant to lower child support below the table amount.

If the information on this site doesn't answer your question, you can book a free, no obligation consultation in Toronto about your divorce and family law rights in Ontario and BC.