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Filing for, or changing support payments

Region: Ontario Answer Number: 119

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Where to file for child or spousal support

In Ontario, you can file for or change child or spousal support through the court, or by a written agreement. In addition, child support can also be filed for or changed online.

Filing for child or spousal support through the court

Three courts in Ontario have the power to make orders for child and spousal support:

  • the Superior Court of Justice,
  • the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, and
  • the Ontario Court of Justice.

All three courts may award payments and lump-sums of support but the courts treat child and spousal support as separate issues.

The Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice has jurisdiction over all legal disputes involving the family and is normally the best place to seek an order for support. However, the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice exists only in the following 17 areas of Ontario: Barrie, Bracebridge, Brockville, Cobourg, Cornwall, Hamilton, Kingston, L’Orignal, Lindsay, London, Napanee, Newmarket, Oshawa/Whitby, Ottawa, Perth, Peterborough, and St. Catharines. In all other sites across the province, family law matters are divided between the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice.

For example, Toronto does not have a Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice. In Toronto, both the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice are subject to the Family Law Rules regarding case management for most legal disputes involving the family. These rules are designed to reduce unnecessary cost and delay in family litigation by establishing a strict timetable for the various steps of a legal claim.

As noted, in jurisdictions that do not have a Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, both the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice may hear claims for child and spousal support. However, the Ontario Court of Justice does not have the jurisdiction to hear cases involving property claims or divorce. If your claim for child or spousal support also involves a claim for property or divorce, and you reside in an area of Ontario which does not have a Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, you will have to follow the normal procedures for filing an Application at a Superior Court of Justice.

Procedures for support applications

To seek an order for child or spousal support at a court, you must file an Application. Except for emergency situations, you should bring your Application for child or spousal support to the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, or the Ontario Court of Justice in the municipality in which you reside. The Family Court can also provide you with information about other methods of addressing your dispute, such as mediation. Proceedings in the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice are now governed by the Family Law Rules. These new rules use language that is intended to be easier to understand than that of the normal Rules of Civil Procedure.

To make an Application for support you must:

  • Complete the court forms
  • Make copies of the forms
  • Submit the forms to the nearest family court
  • Serve the other parent or caregiver with the forms

If you will be paying support and you are responding to a request to set it up, you must:

  • Complete the court forms
  • Compile supporting documents, including documents regarding your income
  • Serve the other parent or caregiver with the forms

When you have completed all the above documents, you may take the Application to the Court office where your case will be assigned a court number. In most contested Family Court cases, both parties must attend a Mandatory Information Program (MIP). In such cases, when the clerk issues your Application you will be given two MIP notices, one for you and one for the other party. Each person will be scheduled to attend a separate MIP session.

Serving your support application documents

Copies of all the forms and documents that you submit to the court must be given, or served, to the other parent or caregiver. To be served correctly, another person (e.g. family member, friend, or process server) must deliver them.

This person can serve the copies in one of the following ways:

  • leave a copy with the person to be served
  • hand the copies to the lawyer for the other parent or caregiver
  • hand the copies to an adult who lives at the address of the other parent or caregiver, then mail a second set to the address
  • mail the copies to the other parent or caregiver with Form 6, Acknowledgement of Service for them to complete and return to you

Changing the amount of support through the court

Once support has been approved, at any time, either spouse can apply to the court to have the amount of child or spousal support changed if there has been a significant change in circumstances, by filing a motion to change. For example, the amount of support being paid may be reduced if the income of the spouse paying support suddenly declines, or, relief may be available for cases of undue hardship being experienced by the payer spouse based on a relative standard of living test.

Child support: Although the Child Support Guidelines are usually closely followed, there can still be many factors which affect how much child support should be paid. For example, there are special rules which may change the Guideline amount where:

  • the payor spouse is earning over $150,000 annually,
  • there are special or extraordinary expenses, or
  • the child is over the age of majority.

There are also special rules to adjust payments in the case of shared or split custody.

Spousal support: After a court makes a spousal support order, either spouse can apply to have it increased or decreased, if there has been a material change in circumstances, such as: if the payer recently lost his or her job, if the recipient spouse recently remarried, or if the recipient spouse was able to get a job. Much will depend on the circumstances of each case, and whether the material change was foreseeable. This is an area where legal advice should be sought before making an application.

 

Filing changes with the court when the parties agree

If you want to change the support provisions in a final order or agreement, the documents that you need to file with the court depend on whether you and the other party agree on what the change will be.

If both parents are agreeing to changes to a child support arrangement, the party seeking to make the change will have to file a number of documents with the court. The documents to be filed are:

  • a Consent Motion to Change Child Support (Form 15D) signed by each party (and the assignee, if the support order has been assigned to another party or social assistance agency)
  • a Consent to Motion to Change (Form 15C) if you want to change spousal support as well
  • 5 copies of the draft order that you are requesting the judge to sign (Form 25)

If both parents are agreeing to changes to a spousal support arrangement, the party seeking to make the changes must file the following documents:

  • a Change Information form (Form 15A)
  • a Consent Motion to Change (Form 15C) signed by each party, and the assignee if any
  • a financial statement (Form 13)
  • a Motion (Form 14B)
  • 5 copies of the draft order that you are requesting the judge to sign (Form 25)
  • stamped envelopes addressed to each party, including the assignee if any
  • a Support Deduction Order Information form and a Draft Support Deduction Order

Filing changes with the court when the parties do not agree

If the parties do not agree with the proposed changes to either a child support, or spousal support agreement, the party wishing to make the changes must file the following documents with the court:

  • a Motion to Change (Form 15)
  • a Change Information form (Form 15A)
  • a Certificate of Financial Disclosure form (Form 13A)
  • a Financial Statement (Form 13) if you are requesting a change to child or spousal support only
  • a Financial Statement – Property and Support Claims (Form 13.1) if you are also making a property claim

The responding party should also be served with:

  • a blank Response to Motion to Change (Form 15B)
  • a blank Consent Motion to Change (Form 15C)

The completed forms must be submitted by mail or in person to the nearest Family Court. Copies of these documents must also be served on the other parent or caregiver.

Family Responsibility Office 

To ensure that payments are made, all child support and spousal support orders issued by the courts are now automatically sent to the Ontario Government’s Family Responsibility Office (FRO). This Office then co-ordinates and monitors all payments by either arranging for the paying spouse to send payments to the office regularly, or in some cases by automatically deducting the payments from the supporting spouse’s pay. Visit FRO for more information.

After changes are filed with the court 

Once all documents are filed with the court where the original agreement was filed, a judge will review them and either:

  • agree to the proposed changes, and sign the draft orders; or
  • direct the parties to provide more information; or
  • direct the parties to appear in court to discuss the situation further.

If the judge agrees with the new arrangements and signs the order, the party filing must deliver a copy to the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The order can be delivered by mail, courier, fax or delivered in person. Ensure that you keep a copy and you have proof of delivery to the FRO office as they will not contact you to confirm they received it. The FRO will add the changes to the existing support agreement and update the case file with the new amount. It is important to note that if an agreement is not filed with the court, the FRO cannot enforce the new support amount.

Filing for or changing child or spousal support through a written agreement

Child and spousal support may also be arranged through a written agreement, usually as part of a separation agreement, made by you and the other parent or caregiver, or using a lawyer or mediator. Both parties must sign the agreement in front of a witness. Child custody issues can also be decided upon in a written agreement.

Written agreements can be updated to change the terms of the child support. A new one may be written with both parties agreeing on the changes, or if one party does not agree, you can go to court to ask for the change to be made.

If you arrange child or spousal support through a written agreement, you can still have the Family Responsibility Office enforce the agreement and determine how support is paid and received, but it must first be filed with the Ontario Court of Justice or Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice. File your agreement along with a Form 26B: Affidavit for Filing a Domestic Contract or Paternity Agreement.

 

Filing for or changing child support online

To be able to set-up or change child support online, both parents or caregivers must provide income information, and:

  • one parent or caregiver must live with the child or children 60% of the time
  • the parents or caregivers do not live together
  • the other parent or caregiver must agree to use the online service

To use the online service, you must pay the government fee, and provide the following information and documents:

  • your Social Insurance Number or Temporary Tax Number
  • a current mailing address for the other parent or caregiver
  • contact information for the person responsible for payroll at your workplace (if you’re the person who currently pays or will pay child support)
  • an electronic copy of your current court order or separation agreement, or information from your current Notice of Calculation or Recalculation (if the support has already been set up)

When child support is set up or changed using the online method, both parents may be required to complete a consent form to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to share their income information with the online service.  Once this is done, both parents will be mailed a Notice of Calculation or Recalculation. This document includes the new child support arrangement, including the amount to be paid, and it can be enforced just like a court order.

Visit ontario.ca for more information on filing for or changing child support online.

For more information about Family Courts, filing for spousal or child support, or changing a support agreement, visit the Ministry of the Attorney General website.

A criminal record will affect child custody and adoption. Therefore, you should get your criminal record removed.

For legal advice and assistance regarding child and spousal support issues, and other family law matters, contact Baker & Baker Family Lawyers .





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