Child support is money paid by one parent or guardian to the other to help cover the expenses associated with raising the children. The amount of child support payable is usually fixed according to tables contained in the Child Support Guidelines (the Guidelines), which sets support according to the number of children and the income of the person paying support. While there are some exceptions to the Guidelines, the amount of child support payable is almost always the amount set out in the tables.
This section discusses the basics of child support, and child support orders or agreements under the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. It briefly looks at how to get a child support order inside and outside of British Columbia. It also looks at the income tax implications of child support, what happens when someone entitled to receive child support goes on social assistance, and the rights of children to claim child support. The obligation to pay child support for adult children is also discussed.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Divorce Act
- 3 The Family Law Act
- 4 Getting a child support order
- 5 Income tax considerations
- 6 Children's right to claim child support
- 7 Resources and links
After parents separate, they usually find that their individual financial situations have gotten worse. Instead of the family income paying for one rent payment, one phone bill, one electricity bill, and so forth, the same amount of income must now cover two rent payments, two phone bills, and two electricity bills. If a child lives mostly with one parent, that parent will inevitably have to pay for more of the child's expenses for things like school fees, food and clothing, as well as accommodation. Child support is intended to help distribute the cost associated with raising a child between the child's parents and other people who may be responsible for supporting the child, such as stepparents.
Child support is a payment made by one parent or guardian (the payor), to the other parent or guardian, the (recipient), to help meet the costs the recipient bears as a result of the child's needs. The payment of child support helps to maintain or improve the child's living conditions. Child support is not a supplement to spousal support; it's money that is paid for the benefit of the child, not the parent with whom the child lives. Inevitably, however, there will be some overlap between the recipient parent’s expenses, and the child’s expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments.
Child support is not a fee paid in exchange for time with the child. With some exceptions (such as child support paid for children over 19, or shared parenting situations), child support is different from and virtually unrelated to parenting time or contact time.
Child support is payable on the principle that both parents have a legal duty to financially contribute to their child's upbringing. The simple fact of parenthood triggers this obligation, even if the payor never sees the child and has no role in the child's life. Child support can also be payable by stepparents and people who are guardians and not parents, although the rules are slightly different for these people and their obligation is often tempered by a biological parent's obligation.
An order for child support can be made under section 15(1) of the federal Divorce Act or section 149 of the provincial Family Law Act. Alternatively, the parents can agree on child support in a separation agreement. Either way, the amount of support should, with only a few exceptions, conform to the rules set out in the federal Child Support Guidelines.
The Guidelines contain a series of tables, particular to each province, which set out the amount payable based on the payor's income and the number of children for whom support is being paid. There are some exceptions to this basic rule, and they are described later in this chapter. The tables were most recently updated on November 22, 2017. For most people, the changes resulted in a small increase in the amount of child support payable.
Both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act require the court and parents or guardians to give child support priority over spousal support when both child support and spousal support might be payable. In other words, if there isn't enough money to pay both, child support will take priority. Going one step further, both child support and spousal support in most cases take priority over debt payments and other expenses, and both obligations survive an assignment into bankruptcy.
The Divorce Act
Child support can be ordered under section 15(1) of the Divorce Act but only if:
- ) the parents (or one parent and one step-parent) are or have been legally married, and
- ) at least one of the parents or a step-parent have lived in the province continuously for at least one year immediately before the court action is started.
A divorce action can only be started in Supreme Court, not Provincial Court.
Parents who do not qualify to apply for child support under the Divorce Act (or who do not want to go that route) can still apply for child support under the Family Law Act either in the Provincial Court or Supreme Court.
Qualifying for child support
In the Divorce Act, children are referred to as children of the marriage, and a child must fall within the Act's definition of a child of the marriage to be eligible for support. There are a couple of important definitions in section 2(1) that apply in determining whether a child is a child of the marriage:
"age of majority", in respect of a child, means the age of majority as determined by the laws of the province where the child ordinarily resides, or, if the child ordinarily resides outside of Canada, eighteen years of age;
"child of the marriage" means a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,
(a) is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or
(b) is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life;
As well, section 2(2) of the act says that:
For the purposes of the definition "child of the marriage" in subsection (1), a child of two spouses or former spouses includes
(a) any child for whom they both stand in the place of parents; and
(b) any child of whom one is the parent and for whom the other stands in the place of a parent.
Taken together these definitions mean that:
- child support can be owing from an adoptive parent, as well as a natural parent,
- child support can be owing from stepparents (spouses who "stand in the place of a parent"),
- child support is payable until a child reaches the age of majority in the province where the child lives (19 in British Columbia), and
- child support can be payable after the child reaches the age of majority if the child is still financially dependent on the parents.
The Divorce Act says that an adult child can continue to be eligible for child support as long as they cannot withdraw from the charge of the parents. The two main reasons why a child might not be able to withdraw are because the child is going to university, or because the child has a serious, chronic illness that prevents them from becoming self-supporting. The factors a court will consider to decide if a child's academic career qualifies them as a "child of the marriage" include the following:
- the age of the adult child,
- whether the academic program is full- or part-time, and whether the program is connected to the child's future employment,
- the child's ability to contribute to their own support through part-time work, student loans, grants, bursaries, RESPs, or other resources,
- the child's academic performance and dedication to their studies,
- both parents’ financial situation, and
- any plans the parents may have made for the child's post-secondary schooling while they were still together.
In general, the courts will allow an adult child to benefit from child support for one program of post-secondary study — one degree or one diploma — so long as the child is enrolled full-time. Where one or both parents have a very high income and had always expected, during their relationship, that the child would take an advanced degree, child support can be payable for more than one degree program.
Many post-secondary institutions consider that 60% of a full course load is “full-time” and the courts usually go along with this.
Although for dependent children over 19 child support is presumed to be the Guideline table amount, section 3(2) of the Guidelines allows the court to order a different amount that the court considers appropriate, taking into account the child’s needs, and other circumstances, and the financial circumstances of the child and the parents.
The primary sections of the Divorce Act dealing with child support are these:
- s. 2: definitions
- s. 4: jurisdiction to make child support orders (child support is a kind of corollary relief)
- s. 5: jurisdiction to change orders
- s. 15(1): child support
- s. 15(3): child support has priority over spousal support
- s. 17: variation proceedings
The Family Law Act
A parent or guardian can apply for child support under the Family Law Act whether the parties are married spouses, unmarried spouses, or if they were in no particular relationship with each other at all but had a child together. People other than parents can also apply for child support if they are caring for a child, including grandparents who are guardians of their grandchildren and people who have been appointed as a guardian of a child.
Both the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court can make orders for child support under the Family Law Act.
Qualifying for child support
Definitions play an important role in determining eligibility and responsibility for child support under the Family Law Act, just as they do under the Divorce Act. Section 147 of the Family Law Act says that each parent and guardian of a child is responsible for the support of that child, and section 146 defines child, parent, and guardian as follows:
"child" includes a person who is 19 years of age or older and unable, because of illness, disability or another reason, to obtain the necessaries of life or withdraw from the charge of his or her parents or guardians;
"guardian" does not include a guardian
(a) who is not a parent, and
(b) whose only parental responsibility is respecting the child's legal and financial interests;
"parent" includes a stepparent, if the stepparent has a duty to provide for the child under section 147 (4) [duty to provide support for child];
Section 146 gives a definition of stepparent for the definition of parent and says that:
"stepparent" means a person who is a spouse of the child's parent and lived with the child's parent and the child during the child's life.
However, section 147 puts some really important limits on support for minor children, and on when stepparents are and aren't responsible to pay child support:
(1) Each parent and guardian of a child has a duty to provide support for the child, unless the child
(a) is a spouse, or
(b) is under 19 years of age and has voluntarily withdrawn from his or her parents' or guardians' charge, except if the child withdrew because of family violence or because the child's circumstances were, considered objectively, intolerable.
(4) A child's stepparent does not have a duty to provide support for the child unless
(a) the stepparent contributed to the support of the child for at least one year, and
(b) a proceeding for an order under this Part, against the stepparent, is started within one year after the date the stepparent last contributed to the support of the child.
Section 149(3)(b) also says that an order can't be made against a stepparent until the stepparent and parent have separated. It is interesting that while the stepparent and the child’s parent live together, the stepparent has no legal obligation to support that child, unless the stepparent becomes a guardian of the child.
As you can see, these definitions cast a very wide net and it's fairly easy to qualify as a parent who must pay child support. A few important points come from the case law on these definitions:
- All parents are responsible to pay child support, regardless of the nature of the parents' relationship with each other (there are some exceptions where child support for adult children is concerned).
- Child support obligations may end for an adult child (but only if the parents agree or a court so orders) if the adult child unilaterally without good reason stops having a meaningful relationship with the parent who pays support. See the case of Farden v. Farden
- In the case of stepparents and adult children the existence (or non-existence) of the relationship between them may be important when deciding child support obligations and amounts.
- Child support can be paid by guardians and stepparents.
- The definition of stepparent includes anyone who has been the spouse of a parent and contributed to the support of their child for at least one year.
- The phrase "contributed to the support of the child for at least one year" does not mean for one whole, continuous calendar year: Hagen v. Muir,  B.C.J. No. 1458.
- Any application for child support from a stepparent must be brought within one year of the date of the stepparent's last contribution to the support of the child and can only be made after the stepparent and parent have split up.
- What qualifies as “contribution” to the support of the child depends on the facts. Trivial or sporadic financial contributions are not sufficient: McConnell v. McConnell, 2007 BCSC 748.
- Child support can be payable by more than one parent, guardian, and stepparent at the same time.
- A duty to pay child support can end before a child turns 19 if the child becomes a spouse or leaves home.
- Child support can be payable after the child turns 19 if the child is unable to withdraw from the care of their parents because of illness, a reasonable delay in finishing high school, or the child attending post-secondary education.
On this last point, the factors a court will consider in deciding if a child's academic career continues to qualify the child for support are the same factors listed under the Divorce Act above.
Stepparents and child support
The Family Law Act says that stepparents can be responsible for paying child support just as biological and adoptive parents are responsible for paying child support. This has meant that in some cases, multiple people who meet the Act's definitions of parent and stepparent can be responsible for paying child support for the same child at the same time. In fact, there are a few cases in which parents have engaged in a number of long-term relationships, each of which were long enough to attract a child support obligation from the successive partners of those parents.
A 2004 case of the British Columbia Supreme Court, H.J.H. v. N.H.H., 2004 BCSC 179, decided under the old Family Relations Act, offers some guidance for stepparents trying to stick-handle around this issue. In this case, the parties had been married for less than three years when they separated. Each had been previously married, and the problem centered around the wife's child from a previous relationship and whether the husband should have to support the child. The court found that the husband, who qualified as a stepparent under the Act, was not responsible for paying support, because of the combined effect of the following factors:
- the marriage was short,
- the stepparent's relationship with the child broke down shortly into the marriage,
- the stepparent had no ongoing relationship with the child, and any such relationship with the child was opposed by the parent,
- the stepparent had a "modest" income, out of which the stepparent was already responsible for paying support for two children from his previous marriage,
- the child's biological parent was paying support, and
- the parent had extended health and dental coverage for the child through her employment.
The Family Law Act helps to clear up some of these confusing issues. Section 147(5) says:
If a stepparent has a duty to provide support for a child under subsection (4), the stepparent's duty
(a) is secondary to that of the child's parents and guardians, and
(b) extends only as appropriate on consideration of
(i) the standard of living experienced by the child during the relationship between the stepparent and his or her spouse, and
(ii) the length of time during which the child lived with the stepparent.
In most cases, stepparents aren't let off the hook entirely. Most of the time, the court will take a biological or adoptive parent's obligation into account when assessing child support against a stepparent, look at the obligation of any non-parent guardians, and require stepparents only to make a sort of top-up payment rather than pay the full amount required by the Guidelines.
Securing a child support obligation
Under section 170, the court may make a number of additional orders when it is making an order for child support that can help to ensure that child support continues to be paid, including after the death of the payor. The court may:
- order that a charge be registered against property,
- require a payor with life insurance to maintain that policy and specify that the other parent or a child will be the beneficiary of the policy, or
- order that child support continue to be paid after the payor's death and be paid from their estate.
Before the court makes an order that requires child support to be paid from the payor's estate, under section 171(1), the court must consider:
- whether the recipient's need for support will survive the payor's death,
- whether the payor's estate is sufficient to meet the recipient's needs, taking into account the interests of the people who stand to inherit from the payor's estate and the creditors entitled to be paid from the payor's estate, and
- whether any other means exist to meet the recipient's needs.
But be aware that the person who receives child support can register a charge against the real estate property that belongs to the person who pays child support even if there are no arrears of child support. See Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, Section 26.
Child support when the payor dies
When a payor dies, the recipient can apply to court for an order under section 171(3)(b) that the payor's support obligation will continue and be paid from their estate.
When a recipient applies to continue a support obligation or if a support order says that the obligation will continue past the payor's death, the payor's personal representative, the person managing the payor's estate and will, has the right to defend against the recipient's application or apply to vary or terminate the continuing obligation.
The primary sections of the Family Law Act dealing with child support are these:
- s. 1: definitions
- s. 146: more definitions
- s. 147: duty to pay child support
- s. 148: agreements about child support
- s. 149: orders about child support
- s. 150: determining how much child support should be paid
- s. 152: varying orders about child support
- s. 170: securing a child support obligation
- s. 173: child support has priority over spousal support
Getting a child support order
There are five things the court must consider before a child support order can be made:
- Does the person asking for the order have the right to claim child support?
- Is the child entitled to receive child support?
- Does the person against whom the order is sought have a duty to pay child support?
- How much support should the child receive?
- How long should support be paid for?
First, the court must decide that the person applying for a child support order, the applicant, is able to make the application. Usually, this is just a matter of fitting into the definitions given in the legislation. To make an order under the Divorce Act, the court must have jurisdiction to pronounce a divorce, which requires that the applicant must be a spouse or former spouse who has lived in the province in which the application is made for at least one year. Under the Family Law Act, the applicant can be anyone included in the definitions of parent or guardian, and, if the claim is being made against a stepparent, the claim must be made within one year after the stepparent last contributed to the child's upkeep and after the stepparent and parent have separated, not later than one year after separation.
Second, the court must find that the child qualifies as a child as set out in the Family Law Act or as a child of the marriage as set out in the Divorce Act, and under the Family Law Act, the court must also find that the child is not a spouse and has not withdrawn from the care of their parents or guardians.
It is important that the application for child support be made while the child still qualifies for child support, otherwise, the court will not have jurisdiction to make a child support order, even a retroactive child support order. There may be an exception to this general rule in variations of an existing order or an agreement, see the cases of MacCarthy v. MacCarthy, 2015 BCCA 496 and Colucci v. Colucci, 2017 ONCA 892.
Third, the court must find that the person against whom the claim is made has a duty to pay child support. This is also a matter of fitting within the definitions.
If the first three conditions have been met, the fourth decision the court must make is to figure out how much the payor should pay. The court must first decide what the payor's annual income is, with the help of the parties' financial information, and then fix the amount of support payable according to the tables set out in the Child Support Guidelines based on the number of children and the payor's income. There are exceptions to this basic rule, which this chapter discusses in the section Exceptions to the Child Support Guidelines.
Fifth, the court will look at how long the payor's obligation should last. This issue is not always argued about, as both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act have cut-off dates after which children are no longer eligible to receive support. Most orders and agreements say that child support shall be paid "until," for example, "the child is no longer a child of the marriage as defined by the Divorce Act," "the child is no longer a child as defined by the Family Law Act," or "the child reaches the age of 19." The question of a stop date for support usually only crops up where the child is an adult engaged in post-secondary studies or is otherwise "unable to withdraw from the charge" of their parents, and the court must then consider the factors described earlier.
The situation can be more complicated for payors who are not parents, that is, stepparents. How much child support and for how long depends on whether or not the biological parent is or should be paying child support. Often a stepparent is required to pay less, having regard to what the biological parent is or should be paying. A receiving parent may be required to take a court action against the biological parent before the court will make any orders against a stepparent.
Getting an order inside British Columbia
A parent or guardian who is seeking a child support order can apply for that order in either the Supreme Court or the Provincial Court. If there are divorce and/or property division issues (which can only be heard by the Supreme Court) as well as support issues, it usually makes sense to proceed in Supreme Court. Whichever court the parent or guardian wants to proceed in, they must start a court proceeding. The process for starting a court proceeding is described in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court, in the section Starting a Court Proceeding in a Family Matter.
Getting an order outside British Columbia
A parent or guardian living with a child in British Columbia who wants to get child support from someone living outside of the province has three choices:
- start the application process here, in British Columbia, using the provincial Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act,
- start a court proceeding in the place where the other parent lives, or
- start a court proceeding here under the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act, get a child support order, and try to enforce that order in the place where the other parent lives.
The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act allows a person who lives in British Columbia to start a process that will result in an order being made in the jurisdiction in which the other parent lives. The applicant fills out paperwork here, and gives it to the provincial Reciprocals Office. A staff member will forward that package to the Reciprocals Office where the other parent lives, and the court there will have a hearing, on notice to the other parent, which may result in a child support order being made. The law that will apply is the law where the other parent lives, which will not be British Columbia's Family Law Act, or (if the other parent is outside Canada) the Divorce Act.
Only certain jurisdictions have agreed to the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act process. If the non-Canadian jurisdiction where the other parent lives hasn't made an agreement with British Columbia about child support orders, someone who wants to get a child support order will normally have to start a court proceeding in the place where the other parent lives. This will require hiring a lawyer in that country, and the law that will apply will be the laws of that country, not the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act.
The countries that will cooperate with a proceeding under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act are:
- Canada — all of the provinces and territories,
- United States of America — all of the United States, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands,
- Pacific Ocean — Australia, Fiji, New Zealand (including the Cook Islands), Papua New Guinea,
- Europe — Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Slovak Republic, Swiss Confederation, Gibraltar, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
- Caribbean — Barbados and its Dependencies,
- Africa — South Africa, Zimbabwe, and
- Asia — Hong Kong, Republic of Singapore
See the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Regulation for the current list.
In BC, Interjurisdictional Support Services posts the forms required by the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act of this province.
Income tax considerations
It used to be the case that the person paying child support could claim an income tax deduction for their support payments, while the recipient had to claim it as taxable income. Not so anymore. Any child support payments made pursuant to a written agreement or court order made after April 30, 1997 are neither deductible for the payor nor taxable for the recipient.
The portion of a lawyer's bill attributable to obtaining, increasing, or enforcing a child support order is tax-deductible. The cost of defending a claim for child support is not deductible. Read the Canada Revenue Agency's * Canada Revenue Agency's Income Tax Folio S1-F3-C3, Support Payments for the fine print, and speak to an accountant to get advice to see if you qualify to write off a portion of the lawyer’s bill that relates to child support.
To claim this deduction, the lawyer must write a letter to the CRA setting out what portion of their fees were attributable to advancing or enforcing a child support claim. If you intend to ask your lawyer for a letter like this, you must tell your lawyer as soon as possible, preferably the moment the lawyer takes your case, so that they can keep a log of time spent on the child support claim.
In a shared parenting situation, where each parent has to pay child support to the other parent, the higher income parent often just pays the difference between the higher amount they owe and the lower amount they would receive. This difference is called a set-off amount. In a court order or agreement, however, it matters how this arrangement is worded. Recently, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has taken the position that:
- If the agreement or court order says that only the higher income earning parent pays the difference, then
- the CRA will treat the situation as if there is only one payor and one recipient of child support.
In that case, the CRA will not allow the parents to share child tax deductions or grants, and will not allow the parents to claim the children as dependants when they file taxes. It is important, therefore, to state that each parent pays child support to the other. And it's probably best to not even mention in the court order or agreement the net set-off amount actually paid.
Suggested wording for an agreement dealing with child support in shared parenting situations might be as follows:
1. The present parenting arrangements made with respect to the children qualify as shared custody within the meaning of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”), in that it is anticipated by Parent 1 and Parent 2 that the children will live with each Parent not less than 40% of the time.
1. For the purposes of determining the basic child support payable pursuant to the Guidelines, Jane and John agree that:
(a) Jane’s annual income for present calculation purposes is $_______;
(b) John’s annual income for present calculation purposes is $_______;
(c) Such that Jane will pay John the sum of $___ as base Guidelines child support for 2 children, and John will pay Jane the sum of $___ as base Guidelines child support for 2 children.
Some lawyers and accountants even suggest that actual cheques for the full amounts should be exchanged to show that each parent pays child support to the other.
You can apply to receive child support from a parent who is receiving social assistance or disability social assistance, but don't expect to get much for your trouble. The Guidelines do not require that a parent pay child support if the parent's annual income is less than $12,100 per year. Social assistance or disability assistance payments, which are non-taxable, would be subject to gross up for child support calculation purposes. (Grossing up is explained more in the Child Support Guidelines section of this chapter, but it's essentially a process for increasing the figure used in calculating someone's child support obligation when they do not pay as much tax as a typical Canadian on all or some of their income.)
Even if you're not likely to get a lot of money out of the other parent, it may be a good idea to make the application and get an order, since the order will at least establish the payor's obligation to pay child support. It's often easier to ask for an increase in the amount payable later on, when the payor is back on their feet, than it is to apply for an original child support order. As well, some people who might be normally responsible to pay support, like a stepparent, may lose their obligation to pay support under the Family Law Act if the application isn't made within a year of the person's last contribution to the child's support. It can be critical to get an order that child support be paid early on.
Children's right to claim child support
In almost all cases, it is the parent who claims child support on behalf of a child, not the child. However, the right to benefit from the payment of child support belongs to the child, not the parent. It follows from this that if child support is the right of the child, children should be able to ask for support on their own, without having to go through a parent.
When there is an order between the parents
A parent can only be subject to a single order to pay child support for a particular child, and if there is an order between the parents to pay child support, an adult child cannot obtain a new order. The adult child can, however, apply to enforce the old order if their parents are not complying with the order and arrears of support are owed.
When someone does not pay child support, or pays less than they are required to pay, arrears build up. The arrears are the sum of money that should have been paid according to the court order or an agreement but wasn't paid. Arrears are a judgment debt, just like any other debt owing because of a court order that requires someone to pay money to someone else. Judgment debts can be enforced under the provincial Court Order Enforcement Act, which allows the debtor's wages and benefits to be garnished, and allows real property and personal property to be sold to pay off a judgment debt. Interest, calculated under the Court Order Interest Act, is owing on judgment debts.
A child who is the subject of a child support order can apply to enforce any arrears as a judgment debt. The child can apply to enforce the old order starting when they become an adult able to sue someone at the age of 19 in British Columbia.
The Limitation Act, SBC 2012, c 13, does not apply to claims for arrears of child support payable under a judgment or an agreement that has been filed with the court – see section 3(1)(l).
When there isn't an order between the parents
Nothing prevents a child from applying for child support, as long as the child would normally be entitled to receive child support, but it is a bit complicated.
First, the child cannot apply for child support under the Divorce Act, because that act only applies to spouses, defined as people who are or who used to be married to each other. Under section 15.1 of the act, the court can only order a spouse to pay child support. The only other law that might apply is the Family Law Act. Section 147(1) says that "each parent and guardian of a child" is responsible for supporting that child; section 149(2)(b) says that a child can apply for a support order.
Second, for so long as the child's parents are together and the child continues to live with them, the child will not be entitled to ask for a child support order as the court will assume that the child's needs are being met.
Third, a child seeking a child support order must qualify as a child, as defined by section 147 of the Family Law Act, in order to claim child support. While the court cannot grant a child a support order if the child doesn't qualify as a child within the meaning of the Act, it is also the case that children under the age of 19 are under a legal disability, which means they cannot start a court proceeding and apply for child support on their own.
This leaves two options:
- The child is 19 or older and applies for support as an adult child "unable to withdraw" from the care of their parents (and therefore still qualifies as a "child" entitled to receive support).
- The child is a minor and applies for support through a litigation guardian (formerly known as a guardian ad litem).
If you are a child thinking of making a claim for child support, you really should speak to a lawyer. This area of the law is not straightforward at all.
- Family Law Act
- Divorce Act
- Child Support Guidelines
- Criminal Code
- Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act
- Interjurisdictional Support Orders Regulation
- Income Tax Act
- Court Order Enforcement Act
- Court Order Interest Act
- Limitation Act
- Family Maintenance Enforcement Act
- Department of Justice's website "Provincial and Territorial Information on Interjurisdictional and International Support Order Enforcement" (list of reciprocals offices by province)
- Ministry of Attorney General Interjurisdictional Support Services (BC reciprocals office)
- Canada Revenue Agency's Income Tax Folio: S1-F3-C3, Support Payments
- Ministry of Attorney General's website "Family Maintenance Services"
- Dial-A-Law Script "Child support"
- Legal Services Society's Family Law website's information page "Child & spousal support"
- Under "Child support", see "What are the child support guidelines and how do they work?"
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by William Murphy-Dyson and Inga Phillips, June 14, 2019.|
|JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most of the trials in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and has no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court" and "Supreme Court of Canada."
A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family law proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or any claims under the Divorce Act. See "Divorce Act," "judge" and "jurisdiction."
In family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "assisted reproduction," "natural parent" and "stepparent."
Money paid by one parent or guardian to another parent or guardian as a contribution toward the cost of a child's living and other expenses.
Short for the Child Support Guidelines, a regulation to the federal Divorce Act, adopted by each province and territory except Quebec, that sets the amount of child support a parent or guardian must pay, usually based on the person's income and the number of children involved.
A mandatory direction of the court that is binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. Failing to abide by the terms of an order may constitute contempt of court. See "appeal," "consent order," "contempt of court," "decision" and "declaration."
(1) The assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; (2) the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding.
A duty, whether contractual, moral, or legal in origin, to do or not do something. See "duty."
A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."
(1) A person charged with the legal care of someone under a legal disability. (2) A term under the Family Law Act referring to a person, including a parent, who is responsible for the care and upbringing of a child through the exercise of parental responsibilities. See "disability," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time."
In law, a calculation of the allowable legal expenses of a party to a court proceeding, as determined by the Supreme Court Family Rules. The party who is most successful in a court proceeding is usually awarded their "costs" of the proceeding. See "account," "bill of costs," "certificate of costs" and "lawyer's fees."
A payment made by one spouse to the other spouse to help with the recipient's day-to-day living expenses or to compensate the recipient for the financial choices the spouses made during the relationship.
The conditional transfer of the title to real property by an owner to another person in return for money given by that person as a loan, while retaining possession of the property. The party to whom title is given, the "mortgagee," usually a bank, is allowed to register the title of the property in their name if the person taking the loan, the "mortgagor," fails to make the required payments. See "encumbrance" and "real property."
A term under the Family Law Act which describes the time a guardian has with a child and during which is responsible for the day to day care of the child. See "guardian."
A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by an agreement among the child's guardians with parental responsibility for making decisions about contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."
A legal obligation to do or not do a thing, whether by legislation, the common law, or an order of the court. For example, the Criminal Code imposes a legal duty on parents to provide the necessities of life to their children until they turn 16, while the Family Law Act imposes a duty on parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children. See "duty."
A contract intended to resolve all or some of the legal issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship and intended to guide the parties in their dealings with one another into the future. A typical separation agreement is signed following a settlement reached through negotiation and deals with issues including guardianship, parenting arrangements, contact, support, the division of property, and the division of debt. See "family law agreements."
A sum of money or an obligation owed by one person to another. A "debtor" is a person responsible for paying a debt; a "creditor" is the person to whom the debt is owed.
A court proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called a "lawsuit" or a "case." An action for divorce, for example, is a court proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.
The legal termination of a valid marriage by an order of a judge; the ending of a marital relationship and the conjugal obligations of each spouse to the other. See "conjugal rights," "marriage" and "marriage, validity of."
A legal relationship between two persons, whether of the same or opposite genders, that is solemnized by a marriage commissioner or licenced religious official and gives rise to certain mutual rights, benefits, and obligations. See also "conjugal rights," "consortium," and "marriage, validity of."
The age at which a child becomes a legal adult with the full capacity to act on their own, including the capacity to sue and be sued. In British Columbia, the age of majority is 19. The age of majority has nothing to do with being entitled to vote or buy alcohol, although federal and provincial laws sometimes link those privileges with the age at which one attains majority. See "disability" and "infant."
In law, something that is relevant or important. A material fact, for example, is a fact relevant to a claim or a defence to a claim. See "claim," "evidence" and "fact."
In law, a legal incapacity to do certain things, like enter into a contract or start a court proceeding. Legal disabilities include insanity and being under the age of majority. See "age of majority."
In law, (2) a lawsuit, an action, or a cause of action, or (2) the wrongful act of another which gives rise to a claim for relief. See "action" and "cause of action."
(1) Intentionally doing a thing, or (2) a law passed by a government, also called "legislation" or a "statute." See "regulations."
A person who has assumed the status of a legal parent to a child who is not their biological offspring. See "adoption," "assisted reproduction" and "natural parent."
A biological or birth parent of a child, as opposed to an adoptive parent or a stepparent. See "adoptive parent" and "stepparent."
The amount of child support payable under the Child Support Guidelines tables. See "child support" and "Guidelines."
In law, (1) a lawyer's bill to their client or a statement, or (2) a person's recollection of events.
With respect to courts, (1) the authority of the court to hear an action and make orders, (2) the limits of the authority of a particular judicial official, (3) the geographic location of a court, or (4) the territorial limits of a court's authority. With respect to governments, (5) the authority of a government to make legislation as determined by the constitution, or (6) the limits of authority of a particular government agency. See “constitution."
In a court proceeding for divorce, this term refers to all relief claimed under the Divorce Act apart from the divorce order itself, specifically claims about custody, access, child support and spousal support. See "action" and "relief."
The spouse of a person who has children from a previous relationship. A stepparent may qualify as a "parent" for the purposes of issues relating to child support and decisions about the care and control of the stepchildren under both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act. See "parent" and "spouse."
Under the Divorce Act, either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the Family Law Act, spouse includes married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years and have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship."
A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. Not to be confused with "miner," which means something else altogether. See "age of majority."
In law, (1) the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between, may also be used to refer to (2) a specific hearing or trial. See "action."
The law as established and developed by the decisions made in each court proceeding. See "common law."
(1) In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. (2) A historic decision of the court; case law. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."
In law, a legal obligation to do or not do something, whether under the common law or pursuant to legislation. See "act" and "common law."
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
(1) A person for whom a trustee holds a trust, or (2) the recipient or intended recipient of property given in a will. See "heir" and "trust."
In law, all of the personal property and real property that a person owns or in which they have an interest, usually in connection with the prospect or event of the person's death.
Child support or spousal support that is owing because of an order or agreement but is unpaid.
A party who brings an application to the court for a specific order or remedy. Usually refers to the party making an interim application, but in the Provincial Court applicant also means the person who starts a court proceeding. See also "court proceeding," "application respondent," and "interim application."
A request to the court that it make a specific order, usually on an interim or temporary basis, also called a "chambers application" or a "motion." See also "interim application" and "relief."
An act; a statute; a written law made by a government. See "regulations."
In family law, the decision of one or both parties to terminate a married or unmarried relationship; the act of one person leaving the family home to live somewhere else with the intention of terminating the relationship. There is no such thing as a "legal separation." In general, one separates by simply moving out, however, it is possible to be separated but still live under the same roof. See "divorce, grounds of."
In law, (1) a judge's conclusions after hearing argument and considering the evidence presented at a trial or an application, (2) a judgment, or (3) the judge's reasons. A judge's written or oral decision will include the judge's conclusions about the relief or remedies claimed as well as their findings of fact and conclusions of law. A written decision is called the judge’s "reasons for judgment." See "common law," "conclusions of law" and "findings of fact."
A legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit," or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.
In law, any proceeding before a judicial official to determine questions of law and questions of fact, including the hearing of an application and the hearing of a trial. See "decision."
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction by that jurisdiction's law society. See "barrister and solicitor."
A term under the Family Law Act which describes the arrangements for parental responsibilities and parenting time among guardians, made in an order or agreement. "Parenting arrangements" does not include contact. See "contact," "guardian," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time."
A term used by the Child Support Guidelines to describe circumstances in which a child's time is shared equally or almost-equally between their parents or guardians, often resulting in an amount of support that is different than the table amount. See "child support," "Guidelines" and "table amount."
A regulation to the federal Divorce Act, adopted by every province and territory except Quebec, that sets the amount of child support a parent or guardian must pay, usually based on the person's income and the number of children involved.
A judge's conclusions after hearing argument and considering the evidence presented at a trial or an application; a decision, the judge's reasons. A judge's written or oral decision will include the judge's conclusions about the relief or remedies claimed as well as the judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law. A written decision is called the judge’s "reasons for judgment." See "common law," "conclusion of law," "finding of fact" and "final judgment."
A parcel of land including any buildings on that land. See "chattel," "ownership" and "possession."
Chattels, goods, money; property other than real property. See "chattel" and "real property."