Child support is the right of a child to receive support from their parents. In Canada, this is governed under the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act. The amount of child support a parent is responsible for paying depends on a variety factors such as the amount of time each parent can allocate to the child/children, the stability of their income, their ability to provide for the child/children financially, and other special circumstances.
Additionally, the impact of situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, loss of, or reduction in work, an increase in bills, etc. can be particularly challenging for a parent paying child support. Where there is a change in your financial position that is causing stress surrounding the amount of child care you can afford, modifying this amount can help to ease the burden of that change.
In this article we discuss a number of factors that can play a role in determining the amount of child care you may be responsible for, and the options that are available to you should you feel the need to change the amount of financial support you can provide. Please note this article is written in accordance with the laws of British Columbia, and the information discussed may not apply to other provinces and territories.
How much child support?
The Government of Canada provides guidelines that help determine the amount of child support you may be responsible for. Some factors that are used to calculate child support are:
The Child Support Tables provided by the Government of Canada are used for calculating child support based on the income of each parent; they are categorized by province and jurisdiction. Additionally, depending on the amount of income each parent receives annually, the custody arrangement, special or extraordinary expenses and the undue hardship placed on a parent may vary from the amount on the child support table.
The amount of time a child spends with each parent is relevant because, for example, if one parent spends more time with the child or children, they are likely to be responsible for more day-to-day costs such as groceries and clothing. The parenting relationship can be deemed to be either a sole custody, split custody or a shared custody arrangement.
Age of the Child/Children
The age of your child and how many children you have are also important factors in calculating your child support payments. If a child has reached the age of 19 in BC, or the age of majority in your jurisdiction, but requires continued support due to a disability, illness or any other extenuating circumstances, this will play a factor in determining child support.
How to change the amount of child support
There are a number of options that may be available to you, depending on the relationship you have with the child or children’s other parent, including:
- an amended written agreement
- a varying order
- a family law mediator or counsellor
- court proceedings
Amended written agreement
Where you and the child’s other parent have a good co-parenting relationship, you may agree to change the amount of child support among yourselves. Although this option seems desirable, the situation between you and the co-parent could change over time and they may disagree to the change in the future. If the change is made verbally, there will be no remedy available to you later on should you then choose to take the matter to court or to a lawyer to attempt to have the change enforced. It is recommended that you and the child’s other parent sign a written agreement if any changes are made in the amount of child support being paid. It’s also important to keep in mind that, if the agreement is drafted incorrectly, it may not be enforceable. If this is the option you choose, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure the changes are fair, do not cause a burden on either parent, and prevent you from having to owe money to the child’s other parent in the future.
When both parents agree to a change in the financial support you are allocating to child care, the change can be made by applying for a “varying order” in either the Provincial Court or Supreme Court of British Columbia. This does not mean you need to attend a court proceeding for this change to be finalized, you are only required to file the varying order with the court registry.
It is important to note that if you have a pre-existing court order filed with the Provincial Court of BC, you can apply for a varying order in either the Provincial Court or the Supreme Court. However, if your initial court order was filed in the Supreme Court of BC, you may only file the varying order in the Supreme Court.
Family law mediator or counsellor
If you and the child’s other parent do not agree to the change or do not have a good relationship, they may oppose any change in the allocation you pay. Where you find yourself in this situation, the best route may be to include a third party such as a mediator or counsellor to help you and the child’s other parent reach a new decision that is in the best interest for your child or children.
If it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached on your own or through the help of a third party, applying to court to have the order varied is also available to you.
Calculating childcare payments can often be complex since every parent-child relationship is unique and the impact on each parent can vary from case to case. Additionally, making changes to payments may be accompanied by guilt or tension from the co-parent. We strongly recommend speaking to a lawyer to help guide you through this process, relieve some of the pressure and allow you to focus on the best interest of your child or children.
The above blog post is provided for informational purposes only and has not been tailored to your specific circumstances. This blog post does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice and may not be relied upon as such.