How Do I Change My Child Support and Visitation/Access?

Things change for families and separated families. Parents change jobs, kids get older their interests change, and financial circumstances rise and fall. Especially when it comes to kids, Ontario Family Law recognizes that arrangements change over time. When there has been a significant change in the circumstances of the child or the parents, everything related to a child can change – child support, parenting, custody or access. The idea is that the changes should be in the child’s best interests, although what is possible may be limited by finances.

Changing Child Support 

There are three ways to change child support:

  1. If both parents agree on the change – either because one or both parent’s income has changed or because the children’s living arrangements have changed, the parents can draft up an “amending agreement” to their separation agreement or file a Consent Motion to Change Child Support at the court, where there is a court order setting the child support amount. It can be dangerous for a child support payor to reduce child support, even if the other parent agrees, without a formal agreement or court order. Without that formal order or agreement, the other parent can go back and enforce the last formal agreement or court order and support paying parent could end up owing a lot of money – all of the alleged arrears and interest.
  2. Parents can use Ontario’s Online Child Support Calculation Service to adjust child support as long as one parent does not object (a parent must actively object), and neither parent falls into one of the exclusions. Parents cannot use the service if they have shared custody, the support payer does not earn most of his or her income from a salary, or the support payer earns more than $150,000.00 per year, or if a child is 17.5 years old or older and is still entitled to support. In these situations, child support may be more than a simple calculation. But, if child support will be a simple calculation, for an $80 fee paid by each parent, the Ministry of Finance will get both parents’ tax returns and do the support adjustment and advise the Family Responsibility Office of the change. 
  3. If neither of the above options works for you, then you will have to bring a Motion to Change Support in Family Court. The procedure to change support, which is found in Rule 15 of the Family Law Rules, is usually simpler than an initial divorce or Family Court Application. It may involve 2 appearances or less. Either parent can also use this process to change the support paid under a separation agreement if the other parent does not agree.

Changing the Parenting Schedule

Changing “visitation” or the “parenting schedule” may not be as straightforward as changing child support. Obviously, if parents can agree on a change to suit the children, that is what is best for the children. When parents do not agree do not agree, then they should consider using a parenting mediator, or one of the other lower-conflict ways of resolving parenting issues. Finding non-confrontational ways to resolve parenting issues, including the parenting schedule, is much better for the kids. But, if either parent is being unreasonable, or not acting in the children’s best interests, then Family Court may be the only route to protect the children and get the parenting arrangement that is best for them. If the children might be harmed, or if one parent is not seeing them at all, that concerned parent may be able to get an Emergency Custody Order. Otherwise, the same “Motion to Change” procedure that applies for support would apply to change the parenting schedule, but with that different focus (and slightly different court documents as the parents would have to file Form 35.1 Parenting Affidavits instead of short-form financial statements). 

In making any decision about children, judges only do what is in the child’s best interest and have factors to consider in making that determination. Since those factors are what a judge will use, parents should consider them too in deciding what kind of visitation or what kind of parenting plan to seek. There are many different types of parenting arrangements after separation and what works best depends on the child. In addition to the podcasts above for a description of each type of parenting arrangement after separation. If you are not sure or have concerns, then it is important to talk about your specific situation with a Toronto family law lawyer. That will ensure you are doing the best thing for your children.

John Schuman Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law book cover

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of parenting cases (parenting time and decision making), child support, spousal support, property division, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But to understand how the law works precisely in your situation, it is always best to speak to a good Family Law Lawyer.

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