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How do I bring a motion to change spousal support?

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

  • You or your partner's income has gone up or down.
  • The partner paying support loses their job and can no longer pay the spousal support agreed on.
  • The partner receiving spousal support makes more money and the partner paying support wants to reduce or end spousal support.
  • The partner receiving spousal support should now be self-supporting.
  • The partner receiving support is re-married and support was only being paid because they were in need.
  • The partner paying support was also paying child support that has now ended. The partner receiving spousal support wants to increase the amount of spousal support.

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

If you and your partner agree to change or end your final court order, you can change spousal 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. Figure out if there has been a significant change

Look to see if you or your partner's situation has changed.

If you have to go to court, the court will only make an order changing or ending spousal support if there has been a material change in circumstances.

This means you have to show that there has been a significant change in your or your partner's situation. For example:

  • You or your partner's income has gone up or down.
  • The partner paying support loses their job and can no longer pay the spousal support agreed on.
  • The partner receiving spousal support makes more money and the partner paying support wants to reduce or end spousal support.
  • The partner receiving spousal support should now be self-supporting.
  • The partner receiving support is re-married and support was only being paid because they were in need.
  • The partner paying support was also paying child support that has now ended. The partner receiving spousal support wants to increase the amount of spousal support.   

If you cannot prove a significant change in your or your partner's situation, the court will not make the change.

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2. Find out if your order has been assigned

If the partner receiving support gets benefits from a social services agency such as Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), they must usually try to get child support and spousal support. If they don't make reasonable efforts, they may get less assistance or none at all.

If the partner receiving support is having trouble collecting payments from their partner, they can assign payments to OW or ODSP. This means that the spousal support payments go directly to OW or ODSP, and the recipient get the full amount of social assistance even when support is not paid.

The support is paid or assigned to the agency and the social service agency is called the assignee.

If your support order is or was assigned, the assignee must be involved in all court proceedings to change the support order. They need to be kept up-to-date on the amount of support being paid. They may also be owed payments.

To find out if the support is assigned, fill out a Confirmation of Assignment form and fax or mail it to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

They will process the form within three working days and mail or fax it back to you. If the support order is assigned, they will tell you where to send your court documents.

If you do not serve the assignee or get the assignee's consent before going to court, the assignee can ask the court to set aside the new order you get. The court can also order costs against you. This means that you may have to pay the assignee’s costs for asking the court to set aside the order.

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3. 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.

You must usually go to the same level of court that:

  • made your court order
  • has your separation agreement filed with it

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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4. 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 Form 13: 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 you're also changing child support and there are special or extraordinary expenses

Your partner does not agree with you

They fill out:

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5. 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 spousal support order or leave the old agreement or court order in place. The judge looks at the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines and the facts of your case to make decisions about spousal support.

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015