Divorce: Modifying Child Support

Similar to a separation agreement Ontario, divorcing parents may consider drafting a child support agreement. When the parents decide on a child support agreement it is of utmost importance that the agreement be put in writing and must be signed by both parents. When deciding the child support amount, it is helpful to take into consideration what the court takes into consideration – the child’s interests. Further, you can consider how much child support a judge is likely to order in your situation. Judges base their decision of the child support amount on Child Support Guidelines that are set out in Federal Child Support Guidelines which are regulations under the Divorce Act. This article will discuss modifying or changing child support.

In Ontario, child support can be changed if there is a significant change in circumstances. It must be noted that at some point after the divorce people’s lives will change and the needs of children will also change hence the need to modify or change child support. This will thus result in a change in child support orders and agreements. Such changes help to ensure that the support orders and agreements stay fair always.

Some significant circumstances that can lead to the modification of child support can be described by the scenarios below:

  • Ted is paying child support to Annie for their son Jacob.
  • Ted loses his job and can no longer pay the child support that was agreed upon
  • Ted receives a substantial raise in his income
  • Jacob finishes school, gets married or moves out to live on his own
  • Jacob is working full time
  • Jacob decides to go and live with his grandmother
  • Due to an incident Jacob is now in need of new special or extraordinary expenses

There are a number of ways parents can change the existing child support arrangements. Some ways of changing or modifying child support include the following:

Make a new agreement – If both parents agreed to change the child support they can make a new agreement. This new agreement must be drafted, dated and signed by both parents as well as by a witness. If the new agreement changes the terms of the old agreement that was filed with the court, then this new agreement should also be filed in court. One advantage of filing the new agreement in court is that it allows the Family Responsibility Office to enforce the new agreement and support amount. If the new agreement changes a final court order, then the parents need to ask the court to change the order in accordance with the new agreement.

Court order – If the parents cannot agree then either parent can ask the court to change child support. The court will only change the child support order if there has been a significant change in circumstances, for example:

  • the payer’s income has gone up or down
  • the child has left the parent home voluntarily
  • the child has moved from one household to another
  • the child is no longer in daycare or full time school
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