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For parents who are separated or divorced and have child support obligations, the thought of losing their job can be daunting. Adding in the stresses of COVID-19 and the holidays can make something like a job loss even more difficult to deal with. This week we bring you our final in a series of holiday-related blogs. In last week’s post we discussed why we expect to see a surge in separation and divorce following the holidays. This week, we look at what to do regarding child support in the event of a change in employment.  

Unemployment numbers during COVID-19

While the Canadian economy has shown signs of recovery, there are many people throughout the country who are dealing with unemployment due to COVID-19. By the end of September, Statistics Canada reported that employment in Canada had risen by 378,000. But even with more people finding work, there were still 720,000 fewer people employed than just prior to the pandemic. It’s natural that a significant portion of the country’s unemployed are parents, some of whom have child support obligations. It’s natural for one to ask what their options are in relation to child support in the event they find themselves out of work.

Do not stop making child support payments unilaterally

The first piece of critical advice is that it’s never ok to make a unilateral decision to stop making child support payments. There are serious consequences should a parent simply stop paying child support. For example, the courts can order that the payor’s paycheques be garnished if they once again find employment. In addition, tax refunds may be withheld, and driver’s licenses and passports can be suspended until support payments are resumed.

Rather than simply stopping support payments, it’s important to follow the appropriate legal path to alter support payments.

Consider discussing altering support with the other parent

Many parents would like to keep matters out of the courts when possible. If you’ve lost a job, you likely don’t want to spend money to go to court. If your relationship with the other parent of your child (or children) permits, you could reach out to them to discuss reaching a temporary agreement on varying child support until you are able to find employment once again.

Of course, even if an agreement is reached, we still recommend working with your lawyer to put it in writing.

What to do if an agreement cannot be reached?

If an agreement with the other parent cannot be reached, you could file a motion to change under Ontario’s Family Law Rules. Rule 15 allows a parent to apply for a change to a final order concerning child support. A loss of employment outside of your control can provide a reason to vary the amount of child support that is payable. However, it is important to note that this does not apply if the payor is intentionally under or unemployed.

Contact Gelman & Associates to learn how experienced family law lawyers can ensure the best possible support arrangement for your children. In addition to our firm’s separation and divorce handbook and numerous web-based resources, all prospective clients are given a comprehensive family law kit during their initial consultation, with ample information and resources to help individuals understand and navigate the separation and divorce process.

Serving six offices throughout North York, Downtown Toronto, Mississauga, Scarborough, Aurora, and Barrie, our offices are easily accessible by transit and off-highway. In order to be available to clients and prospective clients, our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM. Call us at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-736-0200 or contact us online for an initial consultation

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