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COVID, job loss & your child support obligation

By | - April 3, 2020

Steve Benmor is a recognized divorce lawyer, family mediator, arbitrator, speaker, writer and educator. Mr. Benmor has worked as lead counsel in many divorce trials, held many leadership positions in the legal community and has been regularly interviewed on television, radio and in newspapers as an expert in Family Law.

As COVID continues to ravage our economy, Canadians are applying in droves for employment insurance. Almost a million Canadians claimed employment insurance benefits in the span of one week between March 16 and March 22. This large-scale drop in Canadian incomes brings about a new normal. That new normal is a lower income in 2020. 

But what about divorced parents who are obligated to pay child support ?

Section 2(3) of the Child Support Guidelines states that “where, for the purposes of these Guidelines, any amount is determined on the basis of specified information, the most current information must be used.”  Well, at this moment, that information is no or low income, which translates into a suspension of child support or at least a significant drop.

Since child support is reviewable on an annual basis, some parents are maintaining the regular child support payments – even if it is coming from savings or debt – and will adjust for it later when the annual amount is reviewed.  Others who have no savings or available credit may have no choice other than to recalculate child support.  [Beware: there are some self-employed payers of child support who are exploiting the situation by using COVID to unnecessarily reduce or stop child support].

Under the Family Law Rules, court orders or Separation Agreements for child support may be changed by a specific process called a Rule 15 Motion To Change.  In most Ontario courts, the number of applications to reduce child support have historically been so high that they are directed to a Dispute Resolution Officers (i.e. senior lawyers, not judges) because of the large volume of such claims.  COVID will certainly overwhelm the courts with such applications, especially for those that do not have their historical income resume.  Time will tell how Ontarions and the court system will cope with this dilemma.

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