New tool to allow child support orders to be updated online

By Staff

A pilot project that is expected to allow parents in select Ontario cities to update court orders for child support online will go a long way to streamlining legal services for families, family lawyer and mediator Sharon Silbert tells

The online child support service is part of the Ministry of the Attorney General’s long-term plan to expand web-based services.

In what the government says will be an “easy-to-use online child support service,” parents will have the ability to set up or update child support without having to go to court.

Silbert, principal of Sharon B. Silbert Professional Corp. in St. Catherines, says the service will be of interest to both lawyers and clients navigating the family law system.

In most cases, child support should be reviewed and adjusted every year, Silbert says, but many parents don’t do it for practical reasons.

“It’s a pain for people to go through a complicated process, potentially on an annual basis, as incomes fluctuate,” Silbert says.

It can be easier, however, if couples have a separation agreement drawn up outside of court. In that situation, child support can be updated through an amending agreement, which a lawyer can draft in a short period of time.

“But if a person has a court order that deals with child support, the only way to update that court order is to go through the process of filing a motion to change,” she says. “Even if you’re doing it on consent, it’s a bother and takes time, especially if the Family Responsibility Office is involved in enforcing the support order.”

The Family Responsibility Office won’t change the child support amount until an existing order is replaced by a new one, Silbert says.

Silbert says she’d like to see the online support tool — which is set to launch in London, Kitchener, Ottawa and Thunder Bay in April — expand to families throughout the province.

“Updating support orders often becomes more complicated than it needs to be,” she says. “So anything that can be done to simplify the process is positive.”