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3 misconceptions about child support obligations

When parents split up, they are generally both going to continue to play a role in their children’s lives. Typically (but not always), one parent will have the cater for the child support obligations.

While you may understand this obligation, some common misconceptions about paying and receiving support can create confusion and conflict.

Misconception #1: It is a punishment

Too many people think of child support as a punishment. However, it is not a penalty or in any way reflective of a parent’s capabilities or relationship with their child. And is not a prize for the parent who (in Canada) has over 60% of the residential time.

Child support obligations ensure a child receives support from both parents. They allow parents to share the costs of raising a child so that one parent is not taking on an unfair financial burden.

Further, the amount a parent pays is not arbitrary; it depends on their income, in which province they reside and how many children are in the household. In fact, parents can use this calculator to estimate how much they may pay in support.

Misconception #2: You cannot change or modify orders

You might have a friend with the same income and number of children you have and expect that you will pay the same amount they pay in child support. However, there could be legitimate reasons to account for differences between the support level in each household..

For instance, there are various circumstances where the standard “table amount” will not tell us the whole story under the child support guidelines calculations. That could include “special and extraordinary expenses”  or “children” who are 18 and older.  

There are certainly circumstances where you can secure a change in the order.  Where the support payor experiences a significant income change or where one child no longer qualifies for child support under the statutory requirements, then you can bring a Motion to Change the child support obligation level.

Misconception #3: Non-payment means loss of parenting time

If a parent misses a payment or two, some receiving parents might assume they can keep a child from them until they pay. However, that is not how enforcement works in Ontario. 

The Family Responsibility Office enforces child support obligation orders. If a payor is delinquent, the FRO can take numerous actions ranging from suspending their driver’s license and garnishing their bank account to intercepting lottery winnings and issuing a notice for a default hearing. Revoking or restricting parenting time is generally not an acceptable measure at all. 

Don’t let misconceptions create problems

When people make decisions based on inaccurate assumptions about child support obligations, they do a disservice to themselves and their children. Parents can avoid this by thinking carefully before making any decisions related to support and consulting a lawyer to navigate these matters more easily.

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