Obligation to Pay Child Support
All dependant children have the right to financial support from their parents. When the parents are no longer living together, the parent who does not have custody of the child is obliged to pay child support to the parent who has custody, or provides the day-to-day care of the child. The obligation to pay child support may continue beyond the point where the “child” reaches 18 years of age if the child remains dependant – i.e., if he or she is still in school or is seriously ill or disabled.
A person may have a legal obligation to pay child support payments even if he or she was not married to the custodial parent. This may occur where the relationship was common law. An obligation for child support may also exist where a person is not the biological parent but has historically stood in the place of the biological parent. This may be the case for a step-parent.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Generally child support calculations are made by consulting the Federal Child Support Guidelines, where the two variables are:
- how much money the non-custodial parent earns annually, and
- how many dependant children there are.
The type of custody arrangement is also a factor, as the guidelines assume that the child spends the majority of his or her time with the parent who is receiving the child support. The child support calculation also considers whether the child has special expenses related to childcare, healthcare, or other extracurricular and educational activities.
If the parent who has care of the children is receiving social assistance, he or she has an obligation to make reasonable efforts to obtain child support from the other parent. Any child support payments received is then deducted from the total amount of social assistance given. A non-custodial parent who is receiving social assistance is still required to pay child support as determined by the federal guidelines.
How is an Agreement to Pay Child Support Enforced?
The obligation to pay child support is enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which is a branch of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. If the child support order is made by the courts, it will be automatically filed with FRO. If the parties decide on the child support arrangement on their own, the agreement must be registered with FRO to ensure enforcement of the child support payments. The parent paying the support makes the payments to FRO who then turns around and sends the money to the parent who is owed the money. If a parent who is obligated to pay child support does not do so (for whatever reason), FRO can take certain actions against that person such as suspending the person’s driver’s license.
What is Shared Parenting and How Does It Affect the Amount of Child Support Paid?
If the child involved lives jointly with both parents, the issue of child support may be handled in a different way. Under Section 9 of the federal guidelines, an exception to the standard calculation of child support is permitted when the child spends at least 40 per cent of his or her time with each parent. This 40%+ arrangement is referred to as “shared parenting”.
However a parent who would otherwise pay the guideline amount of child support may argue against the use of the guideline amount stating that the child will spend at least 40 per cent of his or her time with that parent. But when the guideline amount has been avoided and the matter is no longer before the court or the subject of mediation, this “non-custodial” parent then does not make good on the promise and the other parent ends up caring for the child the vast majority of the time without receiving the guideline amount of child support. Therefore it is important for the custodial parent to ask the court to look at the amount of time the child has historically spent with each parent to determine if there actually is a shared parenting situation.