You or your partner may need to change your child support order because of changes to your situation. For example:
- The payor parent loses their job and can no longer pay the child support ordered.
- 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 court order. This is because that parent's income is usually not taken into account when deciding how much child support should be paid.
Your court order may deal with these kinds of situations. For example, it might say that child support ends when your child gets their degree or diploma.
If your court order does not say what should happen if there are changes to your situation, you and your partner can agree to change your court order. If you can't agree, you can get help from a family law professional or go to court and ask a judge to decide.
If the parent receiving child 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 parent receiving child support is having trouble collecting payments from their partner, they can assign payments to OW or ODSP. This means that the child 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 order 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.
If you and your partner can agree on changing your child support order, you do not have go to court to have a judge make a decision for you. But you still need to file documents with the court and get a new order based on your agreement.
The court then makes a consent order based on your agreement.
You need to fill out:
- Form 15D: Consent motion to change, which sets out the new terms you and your partner agree to. It must be signed by both of you and by the assignee, if a social assistance agency is receiving or is owed the support payments. You each need to sign the consent form in front of a witness. You cannot witness each other's signatures. Attach a copy of your existing order.
- Form 25: Order, where you list the orders you want. Be specific about which terms of the existing order you're asking to change.
- Form 13: Financial Statement, where the parent paying support gives information about your finances such as your income, living expenses, and assets and debts. The parent receiving support may also have to fill out a financial statement if special or extraordinary expenses are being divided.
- Form 13A: Certificate of Financial Disclosure, where the parent paying support lists all the documents that prove what they said in their financial statement.
- Support Deduction Order Information Form.
- Support Deduction Order.
- 2 self-addressed, stamped envelopes, one for each of you if you want your order mailed to you. Otherwise you can pick it up from the court or have it faxed to you.
You can get family law court forms from the courthouse or online. They are available in French and English.
Take your forms to court
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.
Get your order
The court clerk gives your documents to a judge to review and make an order. You usually don't need to see the judge because you and your partner are agreeing to the changes.
But, if the judge has questions for you or your partner, the court clerk will contact you with a court date or give you with a copy of the judge's endorsement that sets out any other steps you or your partner have to take.
If you get a new child support order, the court sends the order, the Support Deduction Order Information Form, and the Support Deduction Order to the Family Responsibility Office.
If you and your partner cannot agree on changing your child support order, you can get help from a family law professional. These are neutral people who are trained to work with both of you to help you reach an agreement or make a decision for you.
Family law professionals can work in:
- collaborative family law
- parenting coordination
All of these processes are sometimes called alternative dispute resolution (ADR). They help solve your issues without going to court. Deciding which process is best for you depends on the facts of your situation and what you want. For example, a mediator doesn't make decisions for you, but an arbitrator does.
Some of the reasons to use ADR instead of going to court are:
- You have more control over what happens to your case.
- It can be faster and cheaper.
- It can be less stressful.
- It takes place in a private setting.
But, there are some situations where it may be better not to use ADR, such as:
- There is a history of family violence, mental illness, or drug abuse.
- You can't talk to your partner.
- You can't work cooperatively with your partner.
Each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income. You can use this service whether or not you're in court. If you're already in court, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation at the court free of charge.
In some areas, Legal Aid Ontario has a mediation service that is free if you or your partner's income is low enough. These mediators help with issues of custody, access, parenting plans, travel and vacation plans, parent communication, and child support.
You can also find mediators who offer their services at lower rates through JusticeNet. JusticeNet is a not-for-profit that helps people in Ontario whose income is too high to get legal aid and too low to afford standard legal fees.
If you and your partner still cannot agree on changing your child support order even with the help of a family law professional, or if this is not the right option for you, you can go to court.
Going to court can be a complicated process and it can take a lot of time. It can be stressful and expensive, but it is sometimes necessary to decide your issues. This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case.
The process for asking a judge to change child support in a final court order is called bringing a motion to change.
You can talk to lawyer who can explain your responsibilities under the existing order. A lawyer can also tell you if facts exist that may convince a judge that the 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.