In all of these cases, both parents are still legally required to support their children financially.
The question is, how is it done? After a break-up, separation and support agreements can often be reached without going to court, which can be costly and time consuming. Even lawyers agree that going to court is a last resort, to be done only if all other types of negotiation have failed.
So, before your situation takes you to a courtroom, your first step should be finding information that can help you decide how to come to a financial arrangement that is fair to both parents.
What Authorities Will You Need to Deal With?
Provinces and territories share responsibility with the federal government for matters relating to child support. Where and how federal versus provincial guidelines apply depend on your circumstances. For example:
- if you are divorced or about to divorce and live in any province except New Brunswick, Manitoba or Quebec, it is a federal matter;
- if you are not married, or are separated or about to separate but not planning to divorce you must deal with the rules of the province you are living in.
Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children even if they are not living together. The non-custodial parent (the parent who does not live with and take care of the child for the majority of the time) is still responsible for contributing to their child’s expenses, such as food, clothing, day care, dental care, medicine and housing. Support continues until the child reaches the age of majority; in some provinces that is 18 years, in others, 19 years. Support can sometimes extend beyond the age of majority; for example, if a child is still going to school, or is disabled.
You do not necessarily have to be the biological parent of the child to be required to pay child support. If you have lived with your spouse or partner and have been a parent to children who are not your own, you are still obligated to support them in case of a divorce or separation.
Mediators and family court counsellors can assist in reaching an agreement on child support, especially if you are unable to come to an agreement between yourselves. It is also a good idea to consult a lawyer when you are negotiating child support and before you sign any agreement that will be binding on both of you.
A lawyer can help you:
- calculate what amount your child support should be,
- advise you on what documents you’ll need (i.e., income tax returns, bank statements, bills),
- make sure you know what your rights are,
- make sure that your child’s best interests are protected, and
- help you with court procedures.