Divorced or separated parents who are receiving child support are supposed to receive income information from their former spouse each year. That is according to the Section 24.1 of the Child Support Guidelines.  

The policy reason behind this law is that parent’s need to assess whether an increase or a decrease in child support is warranted. Children need the financial support of both parents and are legally entitled to this support after a separation or a divorce. 

Because some custodial parents run into obstacles with either receiving the yearly income information itself or getting a new separation agreement in place, the Government of Ontario has created an alternative way. 

Online Portal for Updating Child Support 

With Ontario’s Online Child Support Portal, separated and divorced parents can now enter their income information online to either set up or change their current child support arrangements based on the Child Support Guidelines.  

This online service streamlines the process for parents to get the support they are owed. Using this portal saves both parents time and money that would be eaten up by doing things the old way.

Here’s how it works:

  1. As soon as either parent registers or makes an update to the child support agreement through the portal, the other parent is notified.
  2. The other parent then has 25 days to respond.
  3. Both parents are required to allow the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to share their tax information with the service in order to get the most accurate financial information from the parents,
  4. Once the service has the information, any necessary adjustments will be made and then enforced as a court order. The document produced by the service is referred to as a “Notice of Calculation or Recalculation” depending on whether it is your first time using the service. 

While the Online Child Support Portal is an effective and efficient service for both parents, it has a few shortfalls:

  1. It does not address situations with shared parenting arrangements.
  2. If either parent refuses to use the online portal, the other parent will need to go through the traditional court process to obtain a new order.
  3. The service is only effective if both parents reside in Ontario.
  4. The service does not apply if the payor is self-employed and/or earns more than $150,000 per year. Only parents who are T4 earners can participate.

Steps to Take If the Online Portal Is Not an Option for You

If you’re unable to use the online portal to change or update your child support arrangements, you have two options:  

  1. Make a new agreement with the other parent. If both of you can agree on the terms, then you’re able to enter into a new agreement on your own. Keep in mind that in order for it to be valid, the agreement must be dated, signed by both parents, and witnessed. You should also have the agreement reviewed by a family law lawyer.
  2. Get a court order. If you are unable to reach an agreement on your own, then either parent can file a court application or a motion to change the current order.  Keep in mind that a court can make changes to an existing child support order only if there has been a material change in circumstance, for example,  a change in the payor’s income, an adjustment to the needs of the child, a change in the child’s living arrangements, etc. 

Increased Enforcement of Child Support Orders coming in July

The enforcement components of Bill C-78 were scheduled to begin on July 1, 2020, but have now been delayed to March 1, 2021. The scope of operations for local support calculation and enforcement agencies will be significantly increased due to sweeping changes made to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA), which may come into force in stages over the next two to three years.

Here are some of the most important changes on the horizon:

  • The federal government will be able to release either parent’s income information – including information from tax returns – to a court on a confidential basis for establishing, changing, or enforcing support orders. It will also be able to increase the number of provincial family justice organizations that can request the release of such information.
  • The ability to garnish wages will be strengthened by making sure that any family support debt takes priority over commercial debt. This action ensures that the child’s needs for well-being are taken care of before other debt obligations.

All of these changes will make online support calculation services more effective and streamlined for many clients. 

Darlene Rites is a family law lawyer and mediator experienced in the resolution of all family law matters. She assists clients with resolving family law disputes in a sensible and efficient manner using a variety of approaches including negotiation, litigation, and mediation.

Darlene has argued cases at the Ontario Court of Justice, the Superior Court of Justice, and the Ontario Court of Appeal. Darlene is also an accredited mediator.

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