These are unprecedented times. As of April 1, 2020, the Globe and Mail is reporting that the
government received 2.13 million EI claims in the two preceding weeks. COVID-19 has left
millions of Canadians with no income or a significantly reduced income.
In light of COVID-19 and a reduced income, what does this mean for your child support
The simple answer: continue to make your support payments.
If you are paying support in accordance with a court order, you must follow that order; if you do
not, you risk enforcement of the court order by the Family Responsibility Office and a potential finding that you are in contempt of court. Similarly, if you are paying support in accordance with a separation agreement, failure to pay will find you in breach of contract.
That being said, here are some things that you should also be doing:
1. If making support payments is causing you financial hardship, try and speak to the support
recipient about your support obligation. This is an unprecedented time and as much as
possible, we should be trying to work together to come up with positive solutions. Even
if a support recipient is not willing to discuss a change in child support at this time, you
have given them notice of a change in your income that may affect your child support
2. If your child support is being enforced through the Family Responsibility Office (FRO),
contact FRO and let them know you have been laid off or had your hours reduced. The
FRO has the ability to take enforcement steps against you such as suspending your driver’s
licence. It is better to be proactive and try and work with the FRO as opposed to being
reactive when they start enforcement proceedings.
3. Every case is different and dependent on the facts, but, a change in your income may
allow you to pursue a court order changing your child support obligation. In response to
COVID-19, courts in Ontario are only hearing urgent matters and it is unlikely that a court
would agree that changing your child support is sufficiently urgent (of course, every case
is different). What you can do is start getting the materials together that you will need in
order to commence your court proceeding.
If you are a support recipient and find yourself approached by a support payor, try and work with them. This is a difficult time and some understanding will go a long way. All situations are fact dependent, but, in the same way that a support payor will likely be unable to commence a court proceeding to vary child support at present, it’s also unlikely the court will agree that enforcement of child support is sufficiently urgent that the court should hear that matter during this time.
If you have specific questions about your child support obligations during COVID-19, Barriston
can help. Give us a call or visit our website to send an electronic