The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the economic realities of many Canadians. Businesses face financial crises as they have been forced to close or scale back operations amid lockdowns and other public health measures used to check the spread of the virus. Many of those businesses risk permanent closure.
Country-wide, job cuts and reduced business hours have left many individuals unemployed or working reduced hours. During it all, parents who have child support obligations must now attempt to honour these obligations despite having diminished or no income.
Family law is clear on the matter of child support. Child support is a child’s right, and the law protects and enforces this right. Payment must be made in full and at the expense of all other financial obligations. Parents having difficulty paying child support during COVID-19 should not opt to discontinue making payments, as doing so could result in severe consequences. Instead, a payor parent can seek relief through modification to their court order or separation agreement.
Modification to a court order or separation agreement
Provisions for child support can be court-ordered, established in an agreement and approved by a judge, or set out in a filed separation agreement. Such arrangements are enforceable and can render parties in contempt of court if they fail to abide by the various terms and conditions. Unfiled separation agreements, although not court-ordered, carry a contractual obligation that, if breached, can result in a Court Order being made once the agreement is filed with the Court for enforcement.
Payor parents who make payments per court order or separation agreement should continue to do so if possible. To obtain relief, they can attempt to negotiate with a custodial parent for a temporary reduction in child support. Parents can use the child support calculator and applicable guidelines, adjusted for the change in income, as a foundation to form any amendments. The resulting agreement can then be submitted to the court for approval.
Alternatively, payor parents may request that a court order a temporary modification in support payments. For a judge to grant a modification, payors must be able to prove, among other things, that they suffered a loss or reduction in income and that the loss or reduction is ongoing.
In the absence of a court order or separation agreement, the Divorce Act at the federal level and the Family Law Act at the provincial or territorial level apply to child support payments. The laws dictate that payor parents must pay child support in proportion to their income. In this instance, payor parents may seek relief by working with the custodial parent to temporarily reduce payments. Failure to reach an agreement may mean that a court will determine the outcome.
Help with your child support matters
We understand that these are unprecedented times, and negotiating a new agreement regarding your child support may be a challenge. If you are experiencing difficulty with your child support matters, contact us at Carpenter Family Law. Our Oakville family lawyers are well-versed in child support and other family law matters and can guide you through the best course of action to take in your specific circumstances.
Send us a message today or call us at 905-842-0635 to discuss your case.