Children have a right to support, and every parent has a duty to seek employment that will earn the income necessary to maintain his or her children. Canada’s Federal Child Support Guidelines are used in BC family law matters to determine a fair standard of child support so that children continue to benefit from both parents’ incomes after separation or divorce.
Child support payments are calculated using the Guidelines based on a parent’s gross annual income. If you quit your job, your income will obviously be impacted – but the big question is this: will quitting your job reduce child support? The answer is that child support obligations may change if a parent’s financial circumstances change, but that is not always the outcome and a reduction in child support obligations will not happen automatically.
Quitting Your Job: Child Support and Changes in Income
If your employment situation changes, it may warrant a change in child support obligations. Child support is typically calculated using the payor parent’s income in the previous year, but current financial means can also be considered. If you quit your job and have no current income, this may justify taking steps to secure a reduction in child support. The same is true if you quit your job and have found a new job that pays much less. If you split or share custody of the children, child support is typically calculated based on both parents’ incomes. In this situation, a loss of employment by either parent may warrant a reconsideration of child support obligations. (If your ex is claiming that you now owe more child support because they have been laid off, fired, or quit their job, talk to an experienced family lawyer about your rights, obligations and options as soon as possible.)
In all cases, financial disclosure is important. So, for example, if you received a severance package when you lost your job, the amount you received will be relevant to the calculation of income for child support. It may be that you do not qualify for a reduction in child support payments until the end of the period covered by the severance package (and at that point, if you have not found new employment income may be imputed to you – imputing income is discussed below).
Reduction in Child Support Is Not Automatic If You Quit Your Job
If there has been a significant change in your income since the original child support order or Separation Agreement was made, a reduction is not automatic. You must take steps to change or cancel child support obligations:
It may be possible to negotiate a temporary agreement with the recipient parent to make reduced child support payments for the period of time that you are out of work.
You can bring an application to ask the court to reduce or eliminate child support payments on the basis that there has been a change in income or circumstances (i.e., job loss) that did not exist at the time the original Separation Agreement or court order for child support was made.
If you quit your job and take no steps, your child support obligations continue unaltered. If you stop paying child support, arrears will begin to accumulate. If you are able to secure an agreement or court order to change child support, ensure that the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (“FMEP”) is notified if it has been involved in the enforcement of the existing child support order or agreement.
Imputing Income: Quitting Your Job to Avoid Child Support Obligations
To qualify for a court-ordered reduction in child support payments while you are out of work, you must not be intentionally unemployed or under-employed. A parent who chooses not to work when capable of doing so is intentionally unemployed. A parent who chooses to earn less than he or she is capable of earning is intentionally under-employed.
If it is established that you quit your job in order to avoid paying child support, or that you took a lower-paying job to minimize the amount of child support payable, you will not succeed in securing a reduction in your child support obligations. In fact, the recipient parent can bring an application seeking to have the court impute income to you under section 19 of the Child Support Guidelines.
It is settled law in BC that a parent is expected to take reasonable steps to obtain employment commensurate with such factors as his or her age, state of health, education, skills and work history. Availability of work, freedom to relocate and other obligations are also factors for consideration. For that reason, it is important to document all efforts to find new work.
Need Legal Advice on BC Child Support from an Experienced Family Lawyer?
If you need advice from a 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.
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 our family law office or to schedule a consultation with our BC child support lawyer, please call us today.