Introduction to Child Support in BC
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Child Support in BC
Who is this Wikibook for?
This booklet is for parents and guardians who have to make decisions about child support. Since the duties of guardians are almost the same as the duties of parents, this booklet will use the term “parent” to refer to both parents and guardians.
This booklet is about child support, whether:
- you and the other parent were married or lived together, or not;
- you and the other parent were dating or not; or,
- you and the other parent are still together or not.
This wikibook might also apply to you if you have been a stepparent because:
- you married a parent; or,
- you lived with the other parent and his or her
- child for at least two years and contributed to the child’s living costs for at least one year.
What law does this wikibook refer to?
This booklet refers to the Divorce Act, a Canadian law that applies to married people, and the Family Law Act, a law of British Columbia that applies to married people, individuals who have lived together for at least two years, and people who have had a child together.
This wikibook also talks about the Child Support Guidelines, a regulation to the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act, which describes how the amount of child support is calculated.
What does the law say about the responsibility of parents to support their children?
As a parent, you have a legal responsibility to support your children. Even if you have never lived with your child or with your child’s other parent, you are responsible for the support of your child. A court can require you to support your child if the other parent applies for child support.
If you have been ordered by a court to pay child support, and you do not pay child support, there may be serious legal consequences. For more information, see the “What can happen if child support isn’t paid?” section.
What does the law say about support of children when parents separate?
When you separate from the other parent, your child has a legal right to receive support from each of you until your child turns 19 years old. If your child is still dependent after turning 19 – for example, because the child is disabled or still in school – your child may still have the right to continued support. This can last for as long as the child remains dependent.
Child Support in BC
What is child support and who has to pay it?
All parents have a duty to support their children, during their relationship and after they separate. After parents separate, the parent that the child normally lives with meets his or her support obligation through the countless ways that he or she provides and cares for the child. The other parent meets his or her support obligation by paying child support to the parent that the child normally lives with. Child support can be paid even when the parents both have the child for an equal or almost-equal amount of time, although the amount that is paid is usually reduced.
A stepparent can also have a duty to pay child support. A stepparent is someone who marries a person with children, or who is the unmarried spouse of a person with children. (To become a spouse without being married, you must live with someone in a romantic relationship for at least two years.) Stepparents don’t have the same automatic duty to pay child support that parents do.
According to the law, a stepparent may be required to pay child support if:
- He or she has contributed to the child’s living costs for at least one year;
- The stepparent and parent have separated; and,
- The application for child support is made within one year of the stepparent’s last contribution to the child’s living costs
It is important to start talking about child support right away and possibly apply for a court order about child support. When a person who has a duty to pay child support doesn’t pay child support, sometimes even when there isn’t an order or agreement, a debt of unpaid child support can build up. Unpaid child support is called arrears of support.
How is child support decided?
Many parents who separate are able to agree on how much child support should be paid. It is important to put agreements like this in writing. The agreement on child support may be part of a separation agreement that identifies how the parents settled their other legal issues – such as where the child will live, what the parenting schedule will look like and how they will divide their property.
When parents can’t agree about how much child support should be paid, either parent can apply to court for an order about child support. Both the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court can make orders about child support. Whether parents are able to agree on child support or have to go to court to get an order about child support, how much child support is paid is decided using the Child Support Guidelines. For most parents, the amount of child support is determined by the child support tables. These tables set out how much is owing based on two things: the income of the person paying child support, and the number of children child support is paid for. The tables change from province to province, and the tables to use are the tables for the province where the person paying support lives.
- Important note: Sometimes parents will try to trade a right to be involved in a child’s life against the duty to pay child support. For example, a parent who would normally receive child support might say that she won’t ask for child support if the other parent will agree to just walk away and to not ask for time with the child. The court will not honour agreements like this. The person who has the right to benefit from child support is the child, not the parent, and a parent cannot bargain away a right that does not belong to him or her.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2014.|
|Child Support in BC © People's Law School is, except for the images, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.|