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How do I bring a motion to change child support?

You or your partner may want or need to change or end the child support in your separation agreement or court order because of changes to your situation. For example:

  • The payor parent loses their job and can no longer pay the child support agreed on.
  • The payor parent makes more money and the other parent wants them to pay more child support.
  • Your child finishes school, marries, or moves out on their own.
  • Your child is working full-time.
  • Your child is living with the other parent or a different person.
  • There are new special or extraordinary expenses.

A change in the income of the parent receiving support is generally not a reason to change the separation agreement or court order. This is because that parent's income is usually not taken into account when deciding how much child support should be paid.

If you and your partner agree to change or end your separation agreement, you can make a new child support agreement.

If you and your partner agree to change or end your final court order, you can change child support on consent.

If you and your partner cannot agree, you may have to go to court to bring a motion to change. A motion to change is the name of the court process used to ask a judge to make changes to support in your separation agreement or court order.

There are Family Law Rules that tell you what is needed at every step in a court case. Rule 15: Motions to change a final order or agreement tells you what you need to do. 

You can talk to a lawyer who can tell you if facts exist that may convince a judge that your separation agreement or court order should be changed.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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Next Steps: 

1. Pick the right court

You have a court order

You must go to the same level of court that made your court order.

There are three courts that deal with family law issues in Ontario. These are the:

  • Ontario Court of Justice
  • Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice
  • Superior Court of Justice

So, if the Superior Court of Justice made the order, you must go back to a Superior Court of Justice in the jurisdiction that your child currently lives to change it.

You have a separation agreement

If you have a separation agreement filed with the court, you must bring your motion at a Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice. This is because you cannot file your agreement at other locations of the Superior Court of Justice.

If you need to file your separation agreement with the court:

  1. Attach your most current separation agreement to a Form 26B: Affidavit for Filing Domestic Contract or Paternity Agreement.
  2. Take it to the courthouse at the Ontario Court of Justice or the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice.

2. Fill out your court forms to start the motion

You need to fill out:

You can get family law court forms from the courthouse or online. They are available in French and English.

Take your forms to court

Once you have filled out your forms, you must have your motion to change issued by the court. You take your forms to the court where the court clerk signs, dates, and stamps them and gives you a court date.

Give your partner a copy

You must serve your partner with a copy of your documents by special service within 30 days of having it issued.Rule 6: Service of documents tells you how to serve your documents. There is also a guide on how to serve documents.

You can't give them your documents directly. You have to get a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server to give your partner the documents. Or, you can leave them with your partner's lawyer.

If there is an assignee you can serve them by regular mail.

Whoever serves the documents on your partner must fill out Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. In it, they say when, where, and how they served your partner. The form proves that your partner got a copy of your documents and knows that they have to respond to them.

File your documents

You need to go back to the courthouse once your partner has been served, to file your documents and Form 6B: Affidavit of Service in your continuing record. You do this at the court counter, with the help of the court clerk.

There is a guide on how to file documents.

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3. Get your partner's response

You partner has 30 days to fill out, serve, and file their response. If they don't respond, the court may make an order based on your documents alone.

Your partner agrees with you

They fill out a Form 15C: Consent Motion to Change. This form must be signed in front of a witness. You and your partner cannot witness each other's signatures.

When you sign it, you're confirming that you:

  • are aware of your right to talk to a lawyer
  • know that signing the form may result in a final court order

The assignee, if any, must also complete and sign this form.

Your partner may also fill out a financial statement unless you both agree not to. But, you and your partner may need to provide proof of income in some circumstances. For example, if there are special or extraordinary expenses.

Your partner does not agree with you

They fill out:

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4. Continue with the court process

The court process for motions to change is similar to starting a family law case.

This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case. It tells you what happens and what you have to do if you start a court case or if you're responding to a court case your partner started.

A motion to change may involve a first court date, if your case is at the Ontario Court of Justice or the Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice, unless it includes a claim for divorce or dividing property.

If you're at the Superior Court of Justice, you'll need to ask the court clerk to schedule a case conference.

Some locations of the Superior Court of Justice and Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice have dispute resolution officers (DRO). They are not judges but are trained to help people resolve their issues.

In locations where the DRO program is offered, motions to change come before a DRO first, instead of a judge. DRO's cannot make orders. But they can help you and your partner talk about the issues and come to an agreement that can be confirmed by a judge.

After the judge reviews your case, they can make a new child support order or leave the old agreement or order in place. A judge looks at the Child Support Guidelines, the Government of Canada’s child support tables, and the facts of your case to make decisions about child support.

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September, 2015

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