What is child support?

The law requires both parents to contribute to the financial support of their children regardless of who is living with the children. Most commonly, the parent with whom the child lives will receive child support from the other parent. Step-parents may be required to pay support for a child if they have acted in the role of a parent while living with the child.

Child support is usually paid until the child reaches the age of 18, unless the child gets married or withdraws from parental control before this. It may continue past this age if the child remains a full-time student or is unable to be independent because of illness or disability.

The amount of child support to be paid is calculated by using one of the tables developed by the federal and provincial governments and known as the Child Support Guidelines.

The basic amount to be paid is set by examining the payor’s annual before-tax income and the number of children. The amount may be increased if there are additional special expenses, in which case the parents will be expected to share those costs in proportion to their incomes.

There are other situations in which the table amounts will not automatically apply: if the child is over 18 or spends at least 40% of her time with each parent, or if the couple split the children between them, the court is allowed to vary the amount of support to be paid.

Parents receiving social assistance are required to make reasonable efforts to get support from the other parent. If they do not, their social assistance may be reduced or cancelled. However, if there is a history of abuse between the parents, the government has the discretion not to pursue support.

Orders for child support are enforced through a provincial government agency called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). Most often, FRO collects the support from the payer either directly or by way of payroll deduction, then deposits the money in the recipient parent’s bank account. Due to FRO’s high case load, there is often a delay of several months between when an order is registered and when the recipient parent begins to receive the support money.

FRO has a number of options to collect money when the payer is late, misses payments or attempts to evade the order, including: garnishing his bank account, registering a charge against his personal property (i.e. a car or home), suspending his driver’s licence and/or cancelling his passport.

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