The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step

Additional information

Child support is the right of the child

You cannot refuse to pay child support because the other parent will not let you see your children. And you cannot refuse to let the other parent see the children because that parent is not paying child support.

As parents, you are both responsible for the support of your children and for ensuring that their best interests come first. Even if you separate or divorce, that responsibility continues. It is important for your children that they not be put in the middle of any conflict you may have with each other and that you continue to protect them from hardship.

Once child support is set by an agreement or an order, you both have the legal obligation to comply with the terms of these documents. If you don’t pay support, federal, provincial and territorial laws set out a variety of tools to enforce support.

Changing an agreement or order

No support agreement or order can plan for everything that can happen in life. For example, your income may change, or special or extraordinary expenses may not be the same as they were when you first set up your agreement. At some point, you may need to change your support order or agreement to make sure that it remains fair. (See section 13 in the Child Support Tool for additional information.)

You can change a written agreement by yourselves if you both agree to the changes. If you find it difficult to agree, family justice services such as mediation may be able to help you.

If you have a support order from a court, only a judge can change it. A judge can base the revised order on an agreement between you if it seems fair and reasonable in your situation. If there is no agreement, or if your agreement does not seem fair and reasonable, the judge would use the applicable child support guidelines to revise the order.

Recalculation services

Several provinces have “recalculation services.” These are administrative services that can adjust child support, either up or down, to reflect updated income information.

The Inventory of Government-Based Family Justice Services on the Department of Justice website has information on where provincial recalculation services are available and who can use those services. You may also find information on the website of your provincial or territorial government.

Some recalculation services can only work with court orders, not written agreements.

Enforcing support

The provinces and territories are responsible for enforcing child support. If you need help to enforce an existing support order or a written support agreement, contact your provincial or territorial Maintenance Enforcement Program. You may also find helpful information in the Enforcing Support section on the Department of Justice website.

Who you need to notify about changes

If you are enrolled with a recalculation service or a Maintenance Enforcement Program in your province or territory, it is important to notify them of any changes to the agreement or order. You can find contact information for the provincial and territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs and Recalculation Services in the Inventory of Government-Based Family Justice Services.

Family conflict or violence

If you or your children are in immediate danger or need help right away, call "911". You can also call your local emergency number, usually listed at the front of the phone book.

If you are concerned about physical, emotional or sexual abuse in your family, you may find helpful information in the Family Violence section of the Department of Justice website.

If you have more questions

If you have questions this guide does not answer, you may find useful information on the Department of Justice Canada website.

You may prefer to ask your questions directly to an information officer. The Department of Justice has a Family Law Information Line at (613) 946-2222 (National Capital Region) or 1-888-373-2222.

If you prefer to ask your questions by e-mail, send them to fcyinfofea@justice.gc.ca. It is important to note that government officials at the Department of Justice Canada cannot help resolve personal legal issues or provide legal advice to members of the public.

You can also contact a provincial or territorial public legal education and information (PLEI) organization. PLEI organizations provide information to the public about many different areas of law, including family law.

Directory of resources

The Department of Justice website at http://www.justice.gc.ca has links to a variety of resources that may help you deal with family law issues, including child support.

If you don’t have access to the Internet or if you can’t find the information you need, the Department of Justice may be able to help you by providing general information or by telling you where to get the information. You can contact the Department at:

Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington St.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8
Toll-free: 1-888-373-2222
National Capital Region: 613-946-2222

Family Law in General
You can find general information about separation and divorce by clicking on “Family Law” at the top of any Department of Justice Canada web page.
Divorce Act
To download all or part of the Divorce Act, click on “Laws” in the top menu of any page on the Department of Justice website. Then click on “Acts” and scroll down the page until you see the title of the Act.
Federal Child Support Guidelines (Federal Guidelines)
To download all or part of the Federal Guidelines, click on “Laws” in the top menu of any page on the Department of Justice website. Then click on “Regulations” and scroll down the page until you find the title of the regulations.
Provincial and Territorial Information
To find information on mediation, recalculation services and other family justice services in your province or territory, click on “Family Law” and then “Family Justice Services.” Additional services may be listed on the website of your provincial or territorial Department of Justice or Attorney General.
To find contact information for your provincial Department of Justice or Attorney General, click on “Helpful Links” at the bottom of any federal Department of Justice web page.
To find contact information for your provincial or territorial service responsible for enforcing support orders and written support agreements, click on “Family Law” at the top of any federal Department of Justice web page. Then click on “Enforcing Support,” which will take you to a page with a link to Maintenance Enforcement Programs.
Legal Advice and Information
A lawyer referral service or a legal aid office can help you get legal advice—sometimes for no fee or at a reduced fee. You can also contact a public legal education and information (PLEI) organization. PLEI organizations provide information to the public about many different areas of law, including family law.
You can find contact information for lawyer referral services and PLEI organizations by clicking on “Helpful Links” at the bottom of any federal Department of Justice web page. Legal aid services in your area will probably be listed in your phone book.
Some provincial and territorial family justice services may also provide legal advice and information. See the Inventory of Government-Based Family Justice Services for a brief description of various family justice services.
Income Tax Rules
If you have questions about taxation and support payments, you may find useful information, as well as Form P102, on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca. You can also contact the CRA by calling 1-800-959-8281.
Child and Family Benefits
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers child and family benefits, such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Universal Child Care Benefit, and the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax Credit.
To find out more about the benefit and credit programs the CRA administers, visit the Child and Family Benefits web page or call 1-800-387-1193.
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