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How child support can be fair and equitable

Child support isn’t meant to punish one parent following a divorce or separation.

It is primarily a system to help limit the negative impacts of a separation on children. Neither parent should thrive at the expense of the other. Child support helps balance the new family structure so both parents have the means to provide an established quality of life for the children.

Often, however:

  • One parent worries they will pay too much.
  • One parent worries they won’t receive enough help.

The legal system surrounding child support is based on fair and equitable treatment for everybody, with the children at the centre of the discussion.

You and your partner may not see eye to eye on everything now, but you probably both want your children to suffer the smallest possible impact from your difficult decision to separate.

Working together to achieve that is your best path to success. It’s not a payment to your ex-partner – it’s a way to help your children through a difficult time in their lives.

How do we know who pays what?

The dollar amount of a child support payment is actually a complex calculation with a number of factors weighing in, including:

  • The number of children in the family.
  • The home location of the paying parent.
  • The paying parent’s income, before taxes.

But who actually pays?

It all depends on what the custody and access arrangement for the children.

In a shared custody arrangement, where both parents make decisions in the best interests of the child, calculating child support obligations can be challenging because of factors like:

  • Physical time spent with each parent.
  • Access costs.
  • Current living standards.

In this case, your best bet is to consult with a family law expert to help explain your rights.

With a sole custody arrangement, parent with access rights pays child support to the parent with custody rights.

  • Custody: The primary caregiver who houses the children.
  • Access: The parent who doesn’t live fulltime with the children but has scheduled visitation rights as mandated by a judge.

In most situations, both parents retain a say in major life decisions for children, like religious or educational decisions.

How long does child support go on?

Generally, in Ontario, support must be paid while the child is under the age of 18.

Support continues after that age of the child is disabled or unable to self-support, or continues attending school on a fulltime basis.

Child support is meant to improve quality of life for your children. Support for your ex-partner is a byproduct. There are legal means to chase missed child support payments, but most parents are willing to work together to improve the outlook for their children (regardless of parental differences).

The Family Responsibility Office, a government agency, can help in rare cases of failure to pay.

You aren’t locked in if your circumstances change

Sometimes our financial circumstances change. It’s a fact of life and nothing to be ashamed of.

If you are the paying parent and you can no longer maintain the same level of child support, you can come to an agreement outside of court with your ex-partner, or you can return to court to get your support order changed.

Each parent has a financial responsibility for the child, but each parent also has personal needs. The best outcome for all parties is to recognize financial challenges and work together to find a balance.

Everybody wants their children to thrive, and sometimes it requires a little help for both parties to recognize each other’s challenges, legal obligations and future prospects.

In those cases, an experienced family lawyer can help both parents arrive at a fair and equitable arrangement; working together for the continued success of your children, rather than against each other for ownership.

Your new life doesn’t have to be full of resentment.

Give us a call for some help.