Canada Court Watch - Family Justice Review Committee
Policy and Position Statements

Collection of child support and the variance of payments

(Currently under Public Review)

Discussion

Court Watch receives many complaints about children and families being adversely affected by current policies and practices relating to collection of child support.  Some of the complaints include:

  • While the courts are supposed to order child support based on government guidelines, often these guidelines are not properly followed. Judges have wide discretion when ordering child support and using their discretion, often judges order child support order based on lies and false information before the court.

  • That changing the amount of child support due to changing circumstances of the support payer cannot be changed without one of the parents having to apply to the court again and to have the matter argued before the court again.  The process of having to return to court ties up a lot of court resources which should not be used for this purposes.

  • When determining child support, some courts will base the amount of child support on the average income of a parent over the past three years.  In many cases this is not accurate as parents may be currently making less than the average.  This causes hardship on parents because it does not take into consideration a parent who may be out of work or who has become ill.

  • When more than one child is involved and children are of different ages, when one child may quite school and enter the workforce, the parent who is paying support has to go back to court to have support changed for the other kids or else be forced to pay child support.  Some parents have reported paying child support for children who are working and making in excess of $40,000 per year.

  • Many parents have complained of how difficult it is to return to court to get support payments changes because circumstances have changed.  Some parents have reported children coming to live with them while they are still expected to pay child support back to to the parents where the child used to live.  Many have complained of having their bank accounts seized, their driver's licences taken away, to pay child support for children that are now living with them, not the other parent.

  • In other cases, parents have reported that their child support payments have been registered with the credit bureau which end up showing as an additional debt of the parent. Should that parent have to borrow money, the payments to the collection agency will be calculated as if the parent had a debt and had to make payments in the same amount of the child support payments.  This immediately places a parent in a more difficult credit position.

  • Some parents have reported that they were not hired by firms or in some cases, let go because their wages were being deducted at source by a government child support collection agency. Some employers have reported that it was just one more bookkeeping hassle they had to deal with and did want to hire any employees who were paying child support and had to have it deducted from their paycheques.

The Family Justice Review Committee believes that the issue of determining the amount of child support through the court process has become too cumbersome and is a waste of valuable resources which should be used for other purposes.  The collection of child support has evolved into a huge government bureaucracy that is not able to cope efficiently or fairly with the ever changing circumstances that most families face in regards to the payment of child support.  Some parents are losing their jobs and unable to find employment partly because they are having to have child support deducted from their paycheques.

In the matter of collection of child support and the variance of payments, it is the position of the Family Justice Review Committee:

  • That parents be required to report to the other parent or to any applicable child support collection agency, when any child who has previously collected child support, is no longer in school or no longer living with the parents who receives support.  That child support will be terminated immediately to any parent who refuses to provide this information to the other parent.

  • That child support payments obligations not be registered with any credit bureau or agency as a debt. Currently, this is being used by government child support collection agencies to harm parents by destroying their credit rating.  Destroying a persons credit rating does not help to collect child support, it is merely a form of threat to harm a person if they do not pay.

  • That parties should not have to go back to court to vary the amount of child support due to changing circumstances such as loss of job, children entering the workforce, children changing residences, illness or accident, etc.

  • That parties should be able to alter child support payments within 30 days upon presentation of reasonable evidence to show that there is a change of circumstances and that the process of adjusting child support should be based on standard forms which can be processed by the agency responsible for the collection of child support.

  • In the event that there is a disagreement between parties as to the change of circumstances, that an independent, community based committee be given the power to arbitrate on the matter, instead of the court.

  • That the initial determination of child support should be based on the parties current financial situation.  The practice of averaging out the last three years of income should not be permitted.

  • That when there is more than one child as part of a child support order, that child support payments must specify the amount for each child separately and not be based on a global child support payment where support for all children is grouped under one amount. Global child support payments should not be ordered when there is more than one child.

  • That the current policy of double-dipping of child support where a parent can collect child support from more than one support payer for the same child, not be allowed under law.

  • That agencies given the authority to to enforce child support payments shall not be permitted to collect other expenses which are not directly attributable to support of a child such as court or lawyer fees.  Court fees and legal expenses shall remain a civil matter between the parties.

  • Taking away drivers licences and passports should not be used as a penalty for enforcement of child support.  In many cases, those being forced to pay child support were never given a choice to support to care for and support for their child upon separation.  In most cases, they were forced into the role of support payer.

  • That withdrawal of child support from a parent's payroll cheque should only be used as a last resort and not as standard procedure by child support collection agencies. (see access to and use of government collection agencies)