Whether you pay or receive child or spousal support pursuant to a written agreement or court order, circumstances may arise such that the terms of your financial support may need to change. For example, if you are paying child support as ordered by a court and you lose your job, you may no longer be able to afford the payments that you were previously ordered to pay. If you fail to make payments in accordance with an order, the Family Responsibility Office will take legal steps against you to collect the support owing. This could include suspending your driver’s license, garnishing bank accounts, reporting you to the credit bureau, or commencing a hearing that could result in jail time. Unfortunately, explaining a change in circumstances to the Family Responsibility Office will not stop enforcement measures; the original order must be varied by a judge. Even if the recipient of the support agrees to a change in support, if there is an order or the agreement is registered with the court, the court will need to be involved in a request to vary the support payments.
While the most common instance requiring a variance of support is where the payor has a change in income (increase or decrease), changes to support payments may also be warranted where a child begins post-secondary school, a custodial parent has moved and increased the cost of access with the child, or if the child is residing with the support-paying parent greater than 40% of the time. A family lawyer can help to advise you whether your change in circumstances warrants a change in support, and can help you navigate the family court system should you require the court’s involvement.