How has COVID-19 affected child support in Ontario?

June 18, 2020 Blog No Comments »

In just a few short months, COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our lives. Employment is one of the areas most directly impacted, so people all over Ontario are asking questions about their existing child support orders. Now is the time to assess your current financial situation to determine if you should request revisions to your existing child support order.

Why now?

At a time when parents with custody may have lost their employment and now need their child support funds more than ever, payors who have also lost their income may be unable to pay.  Some people work at businesses that have permanently closed, and many small business owners have clients who are simply not yet in a position to pay. Even as businesses begin to reopen, concerns regarding outstanding child support payments remain.

Therefore, people are returning to work with a limited ability to pay the months of outstanding child support payments. In any case, payors are still expected to continue making their payments following their court order. Even though the courts have indicated they will be understanding of your current financial situation, the payments will likely still be due in arrears and collection efforts may ensue.

However, the province of Ontario recognizes that the COVID-19 outbreak has left a large number of people unable to make the scheduled payments. Therefore, parents who have been laid off or whose employment has otherwise been negatively impacted may have temporary relief available through the Ontario Family Responsibility Office under certain circumstances.

Am I eligible for revised orders?

In order to qualify for revisions to your current child support order, you must appear before a judge. However, to go before a judge, your situation will need to be considered “urgent,” which means you must experience a dire issue regarding your financial circumstance or the stability of your family unit. Therefore, you must generally be prepared to prove that your income has been reduced to apply for a revision on an urgent basis.

The judge will review your case individually and determine whether alternate arrangements are appropriate. Therefore, you cannot assume that you will automatically be entitled to receive temporary relief. Alternate arrangements may or may not be available, depending on your situation.

Recent court cases

Recent court cases demonstrate the importance of being prepared with the proper documentation to justify your position that your child support order should be amended, as courts vary by region in terms of acceptable documentation. For instance, an agreement between the parties might be sufficient for a motion to proceed in the Northwest region. However, in other regions, the documentation requirements are much more extensive.

A powerful example is a recent case in which the mother was laid off from her employment, so her need to appear before a judge was considered to be urgent. However, the father’s income had also been reduced due to the impacts of COVID-19. Therefore, the Court ruled that child support payment calculations should exclude the father’s most recent income because it was not truly representative of his current income.

There are other cases in which changes to the court order are not granted at all. For instance, the courts do not look favorably upon those who have not been fully compliant and/or transparent in the past, and some courts will only grant revisions based on documentation with sufficient detail to demonstrate how the payor has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

What’s next?

The first step is to become familiar with recent guidance regarding your options for child support revisions. It is also wise to obtain legal support before attempting to file a motion, especially considering the wide variation in rules and practices that determine who can appear before a judge to request a revised motion and who is entitled to a revision to their existing child support order based on their current temporary financial hardship.

Do you have a family law matter?

If you need assistance in appealing to Ontario Family Court in regards to your child support situation, I would be happy to help. Contact my office today to schedule a consultation.

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