In last week’s blog, we discussed the various ways income is calculated for child support. This topic is one we constantly receive questions about in family law, with many separating parents unsure of the legal situation they’re stepping into when they decide to separate.
The main consideration to be aware of, is that all dependent children have a legal right to be financially supported by their parents. When the parents are together, they typically split this cost whatever way works best for their relationship. Once they separate, legal structures are in place to ensure the dependent children continue to receive the support they’re entitled to. The main way this is achieved is through child support.
This week, we wanted to expand further on the child support theme, covering five important facts that a lot of people aren’t aware of.
Here are five key facts about child support.
Qualifying as a Parent
It’s an oversimplification to just describe a child’s biological parents as 'parents' for the purposes of child support. Instead, a parent can be the birth mother or father, an adoptive parent, or a step-parent. If a step-parent has shown an intention to treat the child as a member of his or her own family, they will likely qualify to have to pay child support in the event of a separation.
When Child Support Ends
Child support must be paid as long as the child remains dependent. Usually, a dependent child is any child under the age of 18, unless:
- The child is married
- The child is 16 or over and has voluntarily withdrawn from parental control
- Has a disability or illness
- Is still attending school full-time
When to Apply for Child Support
We recommend for individuals to apply for child support right after they separate, or as part of their divorce application. Many individuals will apply for child support and custody at the same time. It’s best to settle these matters as soon as possible following a divorce so both parties know where they stand and can begin to move on with their lives. It’s worth noting that the parent with custody of the child can apply for child support later on, should their situation change.
What Happens if Child Support isn’t Paid
If one parent falls behind on their support payments or stops payment altogether, BC courts will not refuse access to that child. Access can be limited or stopped only if the parent’s behaviour is likely to harm the child. Keeping a parent from accessing their child is considered punishing the child. The law will not punish the child because one of their parents failed to pay child support.
Reducing Child Support Payments
If a court mandates a certain amount of child support should be paid, that order remains in place until the end date set by the court, or until the court changes it. If the parent making payments is experiencing undue hardship as a result of the child support payments, they can petition the courts to have the amount reduced. It’s worth speaking with a family law expert to assess whether the appeal would be successful.
Here to Help
As family law experts, the team at Westside Family Law has been a trusted advisor to countless clients going through a separation. Need assistance with any aspect of child support during a divorce? Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.