What happens to child support if a child decides to switch homes/parents?

children leaving to live with the other parent

As children get older, they make their views on matters known.  At a certain age, children may “vote with their feet” and move in to the home of the parent who does not have custody or does not have “primary residence” under a Family Court Order, Separation Agreement or Parenting Plan. When a child reaches a certain age, courts recognize that it can futile to order a child to live somewhere they do not want to live.  Social workers and child psychologists often recognize this too.  This can be a problem where the child moves because he or she was pressured or improperly influenced by a parent to get the child to move in with him or her.  Sometimes, just the desire not to pay child support be the motivation to do that (even though in Canada, child support payments usually do not cover the full cost of raising a child). 

Child support is for the child.  It is not meet the child’s needs. It is not a “bonus” for a parent for looking after a child.  When a parent who does not pay, it is usually the child who goes without. It also sends the message to the child that the non-paying parent does not feel a responsibility toward the child.  For those reasons, child support in Ontario and Canada is a “no fault” scheme. Nothing in the Child Support Guidelines permits a reduction of child support because of the conduct of a parent (aside from a person becoming liable for child support because he or she acted like a parent.)  A child, over 16 years of age, withdrawing from the “parental control” of both parents can  end child support.  However, if a child has not withdrawn from his or he parent and is either under 18 years old, or is over18 years old and remains dependent because of disability, illness or education, the obligation to pay child support continues

Even a child’s conduct, except conduct of the most egregious type against the support paying parent, does not end support.  (For a discussion of this, see paragraphs 148-156 of this Ontario Family Court decision.)

In cases where a parent has acted wrongly to coerce a child to move, then the court take that in account before making a new custody order, or may consider making a spousal support order to ensure that the parent who is losing child support is not in financially precarious position as a result. 

So, child Support is the right of the child to have financial support for his or her needs. Those needs exist independent of where a child lives, or a why a child lives there.  If a child decides to leave one parent and move in with the other, than the child support obligation changes as well.  It is always the parent with whom the child does not live who pays support.  Or, if the child decides to split his or her time approximately evenly between parents, the parents essentially pay child support to each other and set off one amount against the other.  For more on about child support obligations in Ontario and Canada, listen to this podcast.

Child support can be changed when there is a “material change of circumstances” for a parent or the child.  That means child support is changed whenever there is any significant change for parent or child.  The child changing homes qualifies.  To find out how to change a child support order or agreement, watch this video.  However, if either parent’s income is even a little hard to determine (tax returns do not always tell the whole story) then you really should get help from a family law or divorce lawyer.

Guide to the Basic of Ontario Family Law (Book)

There is much more about these, and other issues, in this easy-to-understand best-selling book on Ontario Family Law.  It covers all these child support and child custody issues, explains what happens in family court, and gives many tips to keep you out of trouble in difficult situations such as the urgent issues that can arise when you have a trip planned and your ex will not let you go, or you get into a parenting or child custody fight.  Pick up a copy and find out how to get what you need in your family law matter.

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If you feel that something is wrong about why a child is changing residences, or you are worried about a child custody issue, or the other parent is refusing to pay the appropriate amount of child support, then you should speak to a family law or divorce lawyer.  To contact Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, please call the number at the top of this page, or use the form below to get in touch with us. You can also use the form below to comment on this page.

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Lillian LaRosa - Attorney at LaRosa/Toland Law Offices

Child support in Massachusetts is based upon the Child Support Guidelines which consider a number of factors but not alienation because it is just about financial support of the children and the Court does not see support as having to do with conduct since the goal is to provide support to children.

Hamoody Hassan - Senior Counsel at Hassan Law

The law does not and should not recognize the criteria suggested in the article to limit or reduce child support. Children are not bargaining chips. 

Parents do not have children to "do the minimum". 

Our professional duty is to encourage parents to be the best parents they can be, notwithstanding illness, mental incapacity, anger, hostility, or alienation. 

Parents should to take a long view of their lives and the lives of their children. 

There is nothing unfair in supporting one's children - in fact it is unfair to the child to look for excuses to support them less, because of a parental inability to navigate a conflict. 

Many parents say they would rather no access than pay support or get support, but experience has shown those parents who talk that way, don't really mean it - the recipient feels the payor got away with it and the payor feels the recipient stole the kids. 

What do kids who this nonsense feel - they feel bad, lost, and will often when older seek any port in the storm, or such strategies will likely inform their future lives. Often they will wear the parental behaviours like a cloak and feel they are "victims". 

Sorry, in my view parents should pay what they can and do what they can regardless of what garbled message they receive from the recipient parent.

Lisa Marie Vari - Managing Attorney at Vari & Associates, Pittsburgh & Miami Divorce & Family Law Lawyers

Excellent article, John! I often have clients that ask me that same question and many of them don't understand, or don't want to understand, the point you reiterated throughout your article, that child support is for the child.

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