Separation and divorce
Child support basics: 7 things you should know
What’s the purpose of child support? Who can ask for it? How is it calculated? When does it end? This article answers the main questions regarding child support.
Child support is the money paid by one parent to the other to help provide for the needs of their child following a separation or divorce.
It’s meant to provide financial support for the 9 basic needs of a child:
- personal care,
- clothing, transportation,
- and leisure.
An amount may also be added to cover other costs agreed to by the parents, such as child care expenses (for example, daycare) or other special costs (for example, medical expenses, costs related to participation in a competitive sport, private school tuition fees).
Anyone with a dependent child, whether minor or adult, can request child support payments. Generally, this means one of the parents.
Which parent will be entitled to child support payments when there’s a separation or a divorce? That depends on the situation:
- If a child spends the majority of time with one parent (more than 219 days per year), it’s that parent who will be entitled to child support payments, even if they’re the parent with the higher income. .
- If a child spends about the same time with each parent (between 146 and 219 days with each), the income of the parents, as well as the division of parenting time, will be taken into account in determining who is entitled to child support payments.
In some cases, it may be the child who asks for child support (for example, an adult child who left home to pursue further education).
The calculation method for child support payments is set out in the law. Provincial or federal law may apply, depending on the situation of the parents.
Provincial law applies when:
- both parents live in Quebec,
- when just one parent lives in Quebec, but the parents are not divorced or involved in divorce proceedings (for example, they are de facto partners).
In this situation, child support is calculated taking into account the income of the parents, the division of parenting time, and, in certain cases, any special needs of the child. It’s possible that no child support will be payable, for example, if the parent who would normally have to pay it has no income.
Federal law only applies if the parents are getting divorced or are already divorced and one of the parents lives outside Quebec.
In this situation, child support is calculated taking into account the paying parent’s income, the division of parenting time, and, in certain cases, any special needs of the child. It’s possible that no child support will be payable, for example, if the parent who would normally have to pay it has no income.
Although an informal agreement between the parents is possible, there are two official ways to obtain child support:
- An agreement homologated by the court: the parents can draw up an agreement and have it approved by a judge to give it the same legal effect as a court judgement,
- A Court judgement : either of the parents can file an application with the Superior Court of Quebec. A judge will render a judgement that may include an order to pay child support.
Child support is generally paid in regular instalments, for example, $100 every two weeks or $200 per month.
If the court has approved the parents’s agreement or has issued a judgement, the information is automatically entered into the Support Payment Collection Program of Revenu Québec.
This program provides that Revenu Québec collects the money from the parent paying support. Revenu Québec then pays it to the parent who’s entitled to receive the support.
The program provides for two methods of payment, according to the situation :
- Source deductions: when the parent paying support receives income on a regular basis, such as a salary, Revenu Québec will deduct the money directly from this income,
- Payment orders: when deductions at source aren’t possible or are insufficient, or when the parent paying support makes the request, Revenu Québec can issue a payment order specifying that payments shall be made with a certain frequency. This could happen, for example, if the parent paying support is self-employed. The payment order usually also involves the deposit of an amount of money sufficient to guarantee the payment of support for one month.
Parents can choose not to participate in the Support Payment Collection Program. In this situation, the parent paying support will have to provide a security deposit to Revenu Québec. In addition, if they miss one payment, the other parent can ask Revenu Québec to cancel this exemption.
The parent paying child support must begin making the payments on the date agreed upon by the parents or the date specified in a judgement. In the absence of an agreement, it’s generally the date at which the parent paying support received the court application.
The judge can also order the payment of arrears. This means retroactive payments for a period going back a maximum of three years (with some exceptions).
Child support payments don’t end automatically when a child turns 18. They usually should only be ended when a child is self-sufficient and no longer dependent on the parents.
If the support payments were ordered in a judgement, you must obtain a new judgement to end them. If the other parent agrees, you can use the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) to have your agreement made official by a court. If the parents aren’t in agreement, either one can ask the court to rule on the matter.
If there’s a change in either parent’s financial situation, it’s possible to ask for child support to be modified. If both parents agree, they can use the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) to have their agreement made official by a court. Either parent can also use the Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants or “SARPA” (child support adjustment service) if the parents meet certain requirements. Also, if the parents are unable to reach an agreement, either one can ask the court to rule on the matter.
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The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.
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