Child support is based on income and depends on the parenting schedule currently in place. If income increases or decreases, how do you make sure that the correct amount is being paid? What if your child’s living arrangements or other circumstances change? Here is what you need to know about adjusting child support.
Annual review if you have a child support order in place
Parents have an obligation to support their children in accordance with their income. After a child support order is made, parents have a continuing obligation to provide income information to ensure that children receive the appropriate amount of child support.
The Child Support Guidelines state that relevant income information must be provided every year to determine the amount that should be paid. Parents need to provide the other parent with a copy of their income tax return and notice of assessment for the most recent tax year.
Depending on the situation, a parent may also need to provide pay slips, and information about EI, disability payments, or worker’s compensation income. If a parent controls a corporation, financial statements for the business are also required to be produced.
Once per year, you can send a written request to the other parent seeking updated income information and the other parent must provide it. Child support amounts can then be recalculated using the Child Support Table based on the paying parent’s current income if you are the primary caregiver of the children and based on both of your incomes if you are sharing parenting time with the children.
If you have a child support agreement in place
Many written agreements that deal with child support arrangements contain the requirement that parents continue to provide income information. For example, your separation agreement may state that income information must be exchanged at a certain time each year for so long as your children require support.
Once up-to-date income information has been provided, you can use the Child Support Table Lookup to recalculate the amount of your child support. If your separation agreement is silent on the issue, consider getting legal advice to discuss your options for adjusting child support. Note as well that if you made a child support agreement but did not put it in writing, the court can not force the other parent to pay what you verbally agreed to. You will need to either negotiate a written agreement or start a family court case to get a court order for child support in circumstances where no agreement can be reached.
If there has been a change in circumstances
You can request a readjustment of child support if circumstances have changed since your separation agreement or child support order was made. Reasons to change child support include:
A parent’s income has substantially increased or decreased and the change is not temporary;
Living arrangements have changed (e.g., your child moved in with you full-time but the amount being paid is based on 50-50 parenting time. The amount of child support amount depends on parenting time.
Your child has turned 19 (see here for more on child support ages BC).
There has been a change in your child’s special expenses.
If you have a written agreement in place, you and the other parent can agree to change the amount of child support to reflect the change in circumstances. You can either amend your existing agreement in writing or enter into a new written agreement. If there is a child support order in place and you agree to change it, you will have to apply to the court that made it to vary the original order.
If you can not agree to change a child support order or agreement, you will have to apply to the court to vary the original order. The process is complicated and legal advice is strongly recommended. The court can order retroactive child support if the payor’s Guideline income has increased.
If the other parent does not provide up-to-date income information
Problems can arise if a parent does not provide income information. You have options if you are not being provided with up-to-date income information. The steps you should take depend on your situation. You may be eligible to register for BC recalculation service which adjusts child support based on updated income information.
The service can still recalculate child support if it does not receive income tax information from the other parent by adding 10 to 30 percent to the parent’s income amount last used to determine child support in an order, agreement, or recalculation decision. In other situations, you will need to ask the court for help. The court can order a parent to disclose information, to pay your legal costs and to pay retroactive child support back to when their income changed. The current case law permits retroactive support only for a prescribed number of years so you are well advised to speak to family law lawyer to ensure your claim is advanced for the greatest number of years of retroactive child support possible.
If you want legal advice on BC child support issues
Readjustment of child support can be very complex. If you need advice from an experienced BC family lawyer with respect to child support rights and obligations given your specific circumstances, contact Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation.
Ms. Little's practice is exclusively devoted to issues of family law in Burnaby, Coquitlam, and New Westminster and throughout Metro Vancouver. No matter what family law questions or issues you might be facing, you will receive attentive care and understanding at the office of Valerie M. Little. For more information about her family law office or to schedule your own private consultation with a family lawyer, please call us today.