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How do I change my court order?

You or your partner may want or need to change your court order because of changes to your situation. For example:

  • Your child's living arrangements have changed.
  • Your child has new medical needs.
  • Your child has new education needs.
  • Either you or your partner would like to move.
  • Your partner is self-sufficient and spousal support should end.
  • You have access but your partner is not allowing you to see your child.
  • Your partner makes more money and you want them to pay more child support.
  • Your child finishes school, marries, or moves out on their own.
  • Your child is working full-time.

It can be difficult to get along with your partner. Small issues can build up and make you want to change your court order. Think carefully about what issues you want to take to court.

For example, it is best not to go to court for things like who has to wash your child's clothes after access visits or because your partner isn't always on time. Try to find another way to resolve these issues that can save you time and money.

You should first see what your court order says you have to do if one of you doesn't follow it. For example, it might say that you have to try mediation to work out your issues before going to court. Even if your court order doesn’t say this, you may want to get help from a family law professional.

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1. Talk to your partner

You and your partner can talk about changing your court order to deal with the changes in your situation. You can talk to your partner on your own, with the help of someone you both trust, or with the help of a lawyer or mediator.

If you can agree on changing your court 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. This called a consent order.

Child support

If you and your partner agree to change an order for child support only, you need to fill out:

  • Form 15D: Consent Motion to Change Child Support, which sets out the new child support arrangements you and your partner agree to. You and your partner have to sign the 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 write the orders you want the court to make. Be specific about which terms of the existing order you're asking to change.
  • Support Deduction Order.
  • Support Deduction Order Information Form.
  • Confirmation of Assignment form, if you don't know whether your support payments are or was assigned to a social services agency. This means the payments go through an agency such as Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.
  • 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.

Other issues

If you and your partner agree to change an order for child support and other things, like your custody and access order, you need to fill out:

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2. Get help from a family law professional

If you and your partner cannot agree on changing your court 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:

  • mediation
  • arbitration
  • mediation-arbitration
  • collaborative family law
  • parenting coordinator

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.

Your court order might even require that you first try a process like mediation to work out your issues before taking any further steps like going to court.

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.

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3. Go to court to change support

If you and your partner cannot agree on changing the support terms in your court 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 and bring a motion to change.

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.

You ask a judge to change support by bringing a motion to change child support or a motion to change spousal support. A motion to change is the name of the court process used to ask a judge to make the changes.

You can talk to a 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 or ended and help you through the process.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers will 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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4. Go to court to change orders not dealing with support

If you and your partner still cannot agree on changing orders that don't deal with support, 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.

You can ask a judge to change your final court order by asking for a variation. You do this by bringing a motion to change. A motion to change is the name of the court process used to ask a judge to make the changes to your court order.

To bring a motion to change, you must show a material change in circumstances. This means you have to show that your situation has changed so much that your order needs to be changed to deal with those changes.

A judge will look at the facts of your case and the best interests of the child test to make decisions about custody and access.

This test looks at things like:

  • the relationship between each parent and the child
  • the emotional ties between each parent and the child
  • how long the child has lived in a stable environment
  • each parent's plan for the child's care and upbringing
  • each parent's ability to care for the child
  • in some cases, the child's views and wishes
  • if there has been abuse against any family member or any child

You can talk to a 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 or ended and help you through the process.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers will 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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Reviewed: 
September, 2015