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Child support is an obligation of every parent.  Choosing to marry your child’s other parent is a personal choice, but you are required to provide financial support to your children regardless of your marital status.   Ontario law sets out Child Support Guidelines that provide a set of rules and charts to calculate the amount of support required to be paid by each parent.   

Overview of Child Support in Ontario

Child support is the amount of money one parent pays to the other to help cover the costs of raising the child.  The parent making the support payments to the other usually either earns more than the receiving parent or spends less time with the child naturally resulting in their spending less on the child’s day-to-day expenses.  Child support must be paid whether or not the child lives with the parent or even spends any time with them.  Both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children and the amount of that support is calculated using the Ontario Child Support Table Guidelines based on your income, the number of children involved as well as certain other determinative factors that include: 

  • Parenting arrangements: The amount of child support will be impacted based on how much time the children spend with each parent.  If the children spend more time in the care of one parent, the other parent’s child support payment will likely be higher and vice versa.  
  • Undue hardship: If a parent has extenuating circumstances that make it difficult for them to make their child support payments, this may be considered by a judge when making a child support order.  
  • Retroactive support: If a parent has historically underpaid or failed to pay child support, retroactive support payment may be ordered to make up for missed payments.  

Another consideration for child support is special/extraordinary expenses, including things like daycare costs, medical and dental premiums and uncovered health expenses, music lessons, and sports fees.  These expenses are shared by the parents proportionately to their incomes. 

It should be noted that a parent cannot be denied parenting time with their child for failure to pay child support, but at the same time, not having parenting with your child does not preclude you from having a child support obligation.  

How Long Does Child Support Last in Ontario?

Child support payments are made for dependent children – those under 18, or those who are over 18 who are unable to be independent either because of an illness or disability or because they are full-time students.  There is a common misconception that child support payments automatically cease when a child reaches the age of majority which, under the Age of Majority and Accountability Act, is 18 years old.  However, Ontario child support laws provide that child payments may continue past a child’s 18th birthday if that child remains a dependent child under parental control due to illness or disability or because they are full-time students.  

 

What is Termination by Agreement?

The Ontario court system has ultimate jurisdiction over child support payments and can always override the wishes of the parents if it is in the best interests of the child.  However, if there is no court objection, the parents can agree to stop child support payments at a certain point by including a provision to do so in either a separation agreement, cohabitation agreement, paternity agreement or family arbitration agreement.  After the agreed-upon date, the parent who was paying child support is no longer required to do so and all child support payments may cease. 

Pro Tip

Despite the fact that child support may extend through a child’s post-secondary education, including multiple degrees, certain actions may warrant the cessation of child support.

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What is a Change of Circumstances?

If you still have minor/dependent children and you have not reached an agreed-upon child support termination date, you may still petition to stop or modify your child support obligations based on a material change in circumstances.  This may be a modification based purely on mathematics, which is the basis for the Ontario Child Support Guidelines.  The most significant factor used by the guidelines is the paying parent’s income.  Therefore, a change in the paying parent’s income due to job loss or a decline in health is a material change in circumstance that could call for the modification or cessation of payments.  It is also possible for the court to consider a more esoteric change in the needs and circumstances of the family as a whole and modify payments on that basis.  

 

Seek Assistance from a Family Lawyer in Toronto     

Child support calculations may seem straightforward, but the guidelines and Ontario law contain some nuance and it is best to obtain the support and advice of an experienced family lawyer when entering into a situation where child support payments will be made.  Contact the lawyers at Gelman & Associates to speak to qualified and compassionate lawyers who will make sure your needs and the needs of your family are met.                 

FAQs on How Long Do You Have to Pay Child Support in Ontario

The Ontario courts have broad discretion to determine the merits and context of a child’s post-secondary education and when child support payments should cease.

It can depend on the circumstances. The dollar amount of support is based on income and the amount as per the Child Support Table Guidelines but there are very rare exceptions when the parties come up with a lump sum formula or trade certain assets and property to the other as part of a settlement and cover child support in a full and final payment in lieu of child support.  In some circumstances, parents can negotiate certain aspects of the child support – such as length and duration when the child is an adult, etc.  Consulting with an experienced family lawyer can assist you in determining what options are available to you.

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