Child Support and Changing Your Child Support


When parents divorce, children are not left to their own devices. Any parent that has dependent children are responsible for financially supporting them. Dependant means a child who is under the age of majority, which is 18 years old in Ontario. A dependant can also include a child over the age of 18 who is unable to become independent due to an illness, disability, or other cause.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is the amount of money one parent pays to another parent to help support the child financially after a separation or divorce. It is protected by the law and is a child’s right. The definition of “child” means a child that the spouses had during their marriage, which includes an adopted child.1 It may also a step-child if the step-parent acted in the place of a parent to the child during the marriage.

Who Pays Child Support?

When parents no longer live together after a separation or divorce, the person paying the support is usually based on which parent spends the least amount of time caring for the child. However, if both parents spend an equal amount of time caring for the child, then it is usually the parent with the higher income who will have to pay child support. The parent who pays child support is called the “payor” parent.

How Is Child Support Determined?

Generally, it is determined in a separation agreement or a court order. The Child Support Guidelines set out the rules and tables used to see how much child support must be paid. There are both federal and provincial guidelines. The Federal Child Support Guidelines apply when parents divorce. The provincial or territorial guidelines are applicable when there is no divorce i.e. a separation. Although they are called “guidelines”, they are actually the law for establishing child support amounts.

The amount paid by the payor parent is based on their gross annual income, the number of children they have to support, and the province or territory they live in. The tables simply include the child’s basic monthly expenses. These include expenses like clothes, food, and school supplies.

On top of the table amount, a payor parent may also have to pay “special or extraordinary expenses.” These expenses must be necessary because they are in the child’s best interests. Further, the extra expenses must be reasonable given the family’s financial situation.

Examples of “special or extraordinary expenses” are: child-care expenses like a daycare; post-secondary education; the child’s extra-curricular activities; the child’s health-care costs if they exceed 100$ per year and it is not covered by insurance.2

When Does Child Support End?

Child support is paid to dependant children. If a child gets married or is 16 years+ and voluntarily left parental control, the payor parent can terminate their child support payments. As mentioned previously, there are instances where a child is over the age of 18 but are still dependant on their parents.

Another situation is if your child is living away from home and are pursuing post-secondary education.3 Child support may still be required if the child’s primary residence is with the parent that has custody. In this case, child support is likely required until the child is 22 or receives their post-secondary degree.

How Do You Change Child Support?

It is possible to vary your child support payment. To do so, there must be a change in the circumstances that necessitates a different child support order. For example, there is now a change in the payor parent’s income. This means that the table amount of child support needs to be adjusted for the net income. Other examples include: the child finished school; the child is married, or the child is working full-time.

The original child support order may outline how to deal with changing child support. If it does not, spouses can make a new agreement which must be consistent with the child support guidelines. If they cannot agree, you can go to court and the judge will decide.

If you are looking for more information or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to discuss your matter over with a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

1 Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c 3, s 2.

2 Department of Justice, “Fact Sheet – Child Support” (June 10th, 2020)

3 Department of Justice, “The Federal Child Support Guidelines” (June 10th, 2020)

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