Parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. If you are a biological parent, an adoptive parent or a stepparent, you may have a child support obligation, regardless of whether or not you are living with the child.
While many parents are familiar with the broader concept of child support, understanding the details regarding your obligations can be challenging and stressful.
Below we debunk 5 common myths about child support:
- I don’t have to pay child support if I have the child in my care half of the time.
“Shared parenting” refers to a parenting arrangement where the child spends at least 40% of the time in each parent’s home. While in some circumstances, it may be true that no child support is payable in a shared parenting arrangement, this certainly is not the norm.
The Child Support Guidelines specifically address a parent’s child support obligations in a shared parenting arrangement. The amount of child support payable will consider each parent’s individual child support obligation based on their income, the increased costs of this shared parenting arrangement, and the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of each parent and any child for whom support is sought.
A starting point in a shared parenting arrangement is to determine each parent’s individual support obligation and then to “set off” the amounts against each other. For example, if the higher income earner parent has a monthly support obligation of $1,000 and the lower income earner parent has a monthly support obligation of $600, the higher income earning parent will pay the lower income earning parent only $400. However, assessing child support obligations in shared parenting arrangements is not always straightforward, and therefore, you should consult a family law lawyer to ensure support arrangements are reasonable.
- Child support ends when the child turns 18.
It is a common misconception that child support payments end when a child reaches the age of majority, which in Ontario means 18 years old. A child who is over the age of 18 may still be dependent if they cannot support themselves because they have a disability or illness or are pursuing post-secondary education. Children with disabilities may remain dependents for their entire life.
Neither the Divorce Act nor the Family Law Act indicate when child support is to end for a child who is pursuing education full-time. A child enrolled full-time in their first post-secondary degree or diploma is generally considered a dependent until that graduation. However, depending on the family’s circumstances, child support may continue to be paid through subsequent degrees or diplomas as well.
- I don’t see my child, so I don’t have to pay support.
All parents have an obligation to support their children, whether or not they spend time with them.
The reverse is also true – if a parent is not paying child support, the recipient parent should not deny them time with the child.
- If I quit my job, I won’t have to pay child support any more.
Parents cannot avoid their child support obligations due to a self-imposed loss of income. If a Court finds that a parent is “intentionally under employed or unemployed”, they have the power to impute that parent with income. The Court assigns that parent with an income, whether or not they are actually earning that amount, and their support payments will be based on this income.
To determine the level of income a parent should be imputed with, the Court will consider factors such as the payor’s employment history, age, education, skills, health, and available employment opportunities.
- If a biological parent is already paying child support, stepparents are off the hook.
A stepparent who has stood in the place of a parent may have to pay child support even when another parent is already paying child support for the same child. This is the case regardless of whether the stepparent is married to the parent of the child or in a common-law relationship.
Sometimes, a Court may reduce a stepparent’s obligation if there is another parent already paying child support, but this is not always the case. Stepparents should consider consulting with a family law lawyer early on in their relationship to discuss how they may be able to limit or modify their obligation to support a new partner’s children.
Conclusion It is important that child support obligations are assessed in the context of your specific and unique circumstances. Our family law lawyers would be happy to advise you on all issues relating to child support.