Once child support has been determined and your divorce finalized, few would want to revisit the process.

However, from time to time one or both ex-spouses may need to re-negotiate the original terms of child support due to some material change in circumstance.  Such a change is never easy for either parent and it may even exacerbate any existing perception of financial imbalance.

Renegotiating child support doesn’t necessarily have to be a painful process. Instead, it’s simply a case of knowing where you stand, how to approach the matter and where to turn for help, if necessary.

Making Changes to Child Support Payments: Agreement or Court Order

If a material change in circumstances has taken place, court orders and separation agreements can be modified.  Such changes are most often attributed to a loss of employment, underemployment or perhaps even a serious illness.

Changes in circumstances are quite common and it is vital that this information be shared with the other parent as soon as possible.

Financial Disclosure

To be sure, anyone who applies for and/or receives child support payments is automatically entitled to obtain, on an annual basis, full financial disclosure of the payors’ finances. In addition to verifying the payors’ claim(s), it typically satisfies the payee who would want to ensure that the proper amounts are still being attributed to the Ontario Child Support Guidelines.

If a change is to be made, it must still align with the amount indicated in the guidelines for the payors’ adjusted income level.

When Both Parents are In Agreement

In a perfect scenario, both parents will have maintained or, over time, developed a certain level of civility post separation and divorce. Such a relationship promotes calmer discussion and may even accelerate a resolution.

Still, if an order for support had originally been made by the court at the time of divorce, then the change must nevertheless be requested through the same court that issued the original order.

When an Agreement Cannot be Reached

Unfortunately, many ex-spouses simply do not get along. Any disagreements that may arise will likely further strain the relationship. If a resolution cannot be achieved between the parties, they may wish to consider any of the following:

Mediation – While lawyers will always offer advice with the best interests of their clients in mind, the couple may choose, instead to call upon the services of a mediator. The mediator will serve as a neutral third party and attempt to reach the best resolution for both parties. It is typically less confrontational and the parties interact together.

Speak to Your Lawyer – There may still be every possibility of working out a modified support agreement without having to bring the matter before the courts. Working with your lawyer to expeditiously and (by comparison) inexpensively settle the matter may make things less contentious and facilitate a quicker resolution.

Go to Court – If after listening to your lawyers and/or bringing in a mediator you are still unable to reach an agreement, the only other option is to commence legal action. In addition to relinquishing control of the matter and abdicating the final decision/outcome to a judge, taking the matter to court will likely be more confrontational, will be in the public domain and certainly cost a lot more.

The main thing to remember is that your children come first. Unexpected events do occur in our lives, but it’s how we handle and respond them that matters most.