In Ontario, all parents are legally responsible for supporting their children financially until they are no longer dependent.
Child support is viewed as the right of the child, so parents generally cannot “opt-out” of paying child support. In most cases, children will be eligible for support at least until they turn 18, and in many cases, even longer, if they are not self-supporting when they turn 18 because they have a disability or illness, or they are going to school full time. The amount of child support that is paid in any given case depends on the parents’ incomes, the number of children, and the residence arrangement.
In situations where a child usually lives with one parent, that parent will bear most of the costs associated with raising the child, including food, shelter, and clothing. The other parent pays child support as a way of contributing to the expenses associated with caring for the child.
In most cases, the amount of child support that should be paid is determined by the Child Support Guidelines, and will consist of a monthly amount payable according to the Tables published with the Guidelines, as well as additional payments to contribute to the costs of “special or extraordinary expenses” for the children. These expenses are defined in the Child Support Guidelines as including:
a) the costs of child care that is necessary to enable a parent to go to work or school, or is necessary because of the parent’s health needs
b) medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child
c) health-related expenses for the child that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually (e.g. orthodontic expenses, prescription drugs, etc.)
d) extraordinary expenses for educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs
e) expenses for post-secondary education, and
f) extraordinary expenses for extra-curricular activities.
The guiding principle that applies to “special or extraordinary expenses” is that the parents should share the net cost of all reasonable expenses in proportion to their incomes, after deducting any appropriate contribution from the child.
Child support payments may be enforced by Ontario’s Family Responsibility Office (FRO), if they are required by a Court Order or by a Separation Agreement that is filed with the court. If the parent who is supposed to be paying child support misses payments, FRO can take action to collect the amount that is owing, including having the payments automatically deducted from his or her wages.
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