Under the Ontario Family Law Act, there are three types of support in Ontario:
- Spousal support: Every spouse has an obligation to provide support for the other spouse.
- Child support: Every parent has an obligation to provide support for his or her unmarried child who is a minor or is enrolled in a full-time program of education.
- Parental support: Every child who is not a minor has an obligation to provide support for his or her parent who has cared for or provided support for the child.
Since parental support law is used much less often, I’ll be focusing on the first two kinds of support. (Note: Support obligations under the Divorce Act may differ.)
Long gone are the days of fathers evading support obligations towards their children simply by denying parentage. Thanks to the advancement of DNA technology, we can identify whether a man is the father to the child with near certainty.
In Ontario, if you are the biological or adoptive parent to a child, you are required to pay child support to the custodial parent on the breakdown of the relationship. In addition, you may be required to pay support if you have demonstrated settled intention to treat the child as your family.
For instance, if you treat your step-children as your own, you would likely have to pay support for your step-children with the breakdown of your relationship.
In Ontario the Child Support Guideline applies to all family law cases. The amount that a payor pays is determined solely by the payor’s income. If the prescribed amount is insufficient to cover the cost of raising the children, the custodial parent may apply for extra-ordinary child support. The extra-ordinary support is discretionary and depends highly on the circumstances of the parties.
Child support, by law, takes priority over spousal support. If the support payor is unable to satisfy both spousal and child support obligations, the payor would be required to pay child support first.
The spousal support under the Family Law Act applies to married couples who are not seeking a divorce, and cohabiting couples who either have cohabited continuously for at least three years or, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child, are in a “relationship of some permanence”.
Therefore, unmarried couples who have children together would be eligible for spousal supports at the breakdown of their relationship.
Unlike child support, there is no mandatory guideline for the amount payable (although there is a non-binding advisory guideline). Hence, the amount for spousal support depends on the circumstances of the parties.
Typically, in determining the amount of spousal support payable, the courts would seek to:
- recognize the spouse’s contribution to the relationship and the economic consequences of the relationship for the spouse;
- share the economic burden of child support equitably;
- make fair provision to assist the spouse to become able to contribute to his or her own support; and
- relieve financial hardship.
However, because the law mandates that child support take priority to spousal support, often there isn’t much money left for spousal support after the child support has been paid.
PSWLaw’s tireless advocacy on your behalf provides you with a sense of direction in family law proceedings. Call 416 433 5531 to book an appointment.