Child support is the amount of money that one parent pays to the other parent to help pay for the costs of caring for the child. Usually, the “payor parent” either spends less time with the children or, if they spend an equal amount of time with the children, makes more money.
A parent can be a birth parent, non‑birth parent, adoptive parent, or sometimes a step‑parent, where they have acted as a parent to the child. If there is a dispute regarding who qualifies as a parent, you will have to provide evidence, which could include the child’s birth certificate, your marriage certificate, an adoption certificate or anything that proves that the other party has acted a parent to the child.
Parents must pay child support even if they:
- Do not live with the children
- Do not see the children
Child support is usually for dependent children, which means children under the age of 18 or children over the age of 18 who are not independent because they are in school full‑time or have an illness or disability that does not allow them to become independent.
The amount of child support depends on the:
- Gross income (the amount of pay before taxes and deductions) of the person who pays child support
- Number of children
- Child Support Guidelines, which are a set of rules and tables for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should pay.
A parent cannot be denied access to their child because they do not pay child support. And a parent who does not have access may still have to pay child support.
Factors that affect the amount of child support
- Special or extraordinary expenses
- This includes expenses for things such as daycare costs, medical and dental premiums and health expenses not covered by insurance. It may also include music lessons, sports activity fees, post‑secondary expenses, etc. These expenses are shared between the parents based on how much they make.
- Parenting arrangement
- The judge will look at how much time the children spend with each parent, including whether you have shared or split custody.
- Undue hardship
- This includes financial difficulties that make it very hard for the payor parent to pay child support. This can be hard to prove and there has to be evidence of this.
- Retroactive support
- This can be ordered when a parent has a legal duty to support a child but hasn’t paid (or paid less than) the amount required under the Child Support Guidelines.
You may be able to claim up to three years in the past for retroactive child support.
It will be helpful if you have proof of when you requested child support and a reasonable explanation for why you did not seek support in court earlier.
- This is the amount of unpaid support that has added up under an existing support order or agreement.
Setting up or updating child support online
There is an option to set up or update child support online and not go to court. To find out if this option is right for you, please visit the Ontario government’s “set up or update child support online” page.
How can Legal Aid help?
If you qualify for legal aid help on your day at court
There are lawyers at the courthouse called duty counsel. They can help you with:
- Drafting and preparing documents for urgent or without notice matters or where you are unable to complete court documents because of mental or physical health or literacy issues
- Reviewing agreements from mediation
- First appearance at court
- First case conference for applications, responses and motions to change
There are family law information centres in most of the courthouses. A lawyer who can give you advice is known as family advice counsel. They can:
- Give you general information about how to choose a lawyer and how best to use the help of a lawyer
- Give you up to 20 minutes of advice and information about the court process and about family matters
Visit our eligibility page to learn more.
If you qualify for a lawyer to represent you in court
We may cover the cost of a lawyer to help with your support case if:
- Child support is not being paid according to the Child Support Guidelines
- You are a child seeking support from your parents
- You are a dependant parent seeking support from your adult children
- Support payments that will be received from the payor are at least $100 per month
Visit our eligibility page to learn more.
If you don’t qualify for legal aid
JusticeNet is a not‑for‑profit service that provides an easy‑to‑use online directory of legal professionals who offer services to eligible clients at reduced rates. There is a $25 registration fee to access the directory.
For more information visit their website at justicenet.ca.
Factors to consider for claiming child support
If you’re claiming child support, consider:
- Has the other party ever paid child support since separation?
- Is the child support retroactive?
- Where does the payor parent work and how much do you think they earn?
How do you start an application for child support?
Step 1: Prepare your court application form
You have to apply for access in the jurisdiction where your child usually lives. You will need to complete the following forms:
You will need to complete the following forms:
- Form 8: Application (General)
Need help to complete this form? Visit StepstoJustice.ca and use the Guided Pathways tool.
- Form 13: Financial statement (support claims)—this is only if you are seeking special or extraordinary expenses
In your application, you will have to show that you are a parent of the children and who the children live with most of the time.
When you fill out the order request on the fourth page of the Form 8 application, write: “Child support in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines and the respondent’s gross annual income.”
Note: Make sure you complete the correct form. Form 13 is for support claims only. Form&bsp;13.1 is for property and support.
Read our tip sheet for completing your financial statements for both Form 13 and Form 13.1.
Step 2: Get your application issued
Take at least three copies of all of your documents to the court clerks.
If you are going to the Ontario Court of Justice, go to the family counter.
If you are going to the Superior Court of Justice, take a number and wait to be called.
You will get your file number and a notice to attend a mandatory information program session for both you and the other party. The session gives you an overview of family law issues and the family court process. You will not be scheduled to attend on the same date as the other party.
You can find more information on our page about starting a family court case.
Step 3: Serve your application
You must get someone else to give a copy of all the documents that you have filed with the court as well as the mandatory information program notice and give them to the other party. You cannot serve these documents. You must have someone who is at least 18 years old—this could be a friend or family member or a professional server—hand deliver a copy to your ex.
You will also have to file proof that the documents were given to the other party. This is called an affidavit of service, which has to be signed by the person who served the documents.
Step 4: Complete proof of service
Proof of service is known as an affidavit of service. It’s a document that shows that all the documents were successfully given to the other party.
The affidavit will list the time and date the documents were served, and also how it was served and who did the serving.
An affidavit of service is important. If the other party says they haven’t been notified, this affidavit proves that they were.
Include any supporting documents. For example, if you mail a document by registered mail, print off the delivery confirmation including the signature verifying the receipt from the Canada Post website. If you send it by courier, include the delivery confirmation with signature provided by the commercial courier company.
Step 5: File your court documents
Take all of your original documents to the family court clerk and put them into your continuing record, which is a record kept at the courthouse with all of the documents that you have filed and want the court to look at.
You will have to update your table of contents, which is a list that includes every form and document that you have added to your court file.
If you’re unsure about anything, ask the clerk for help.
Enforcing a child support order
If your ex isn’t paying child support, the court can enforce child support either in a court order or a separation agreement.
The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) gets the money owed for child support from the payor parent. This office can enforce child support payments if there is a:
- Court order
- Separation agreement that is filed with the court and registered with the FRO for enforcement
- Notice of Calculation or Notice of Recalculation filed by the government
To find out more, read our page on enforcing child support payments.