Do I need to continue child support payments if I lose my job?

March 11, 2024 Plat Simionati

Do I need to continue child support payments if I lose my job?

Disclaimer: This article aims to provide educational information surrounding a lost job and child support payments. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Consult with a lawyer and exercise your discretion before taking action based on the information provided in the blog.

Details of layoffs in 2024 have become a regular part of our news cycle, with the unemployment rate estimated to reach 7% in 2024. The unfortunate reality is that you or your co-parent may face unemployment. If you lose your job, what happens to your child support payments? 

If you have lost your job, do not stop paying child support. Instead, contact our team today to speak about your support arrangements. We are here to guide you through these situations.  

This article will also guide you through how the Courts view your children’s right to support, even if you face loss of employment.  

How are child support payments calculated? 

In a future article, we will discuss the child support guidelines in more detail, but let’s begin with an overview of how the courts will determine the amount of child support you must pay. 

The Child Support Guidelines determine the child support amount in Ontario by considering various factors. It includes, but is not limited to, the specific needs of the child or children, the total number of children involved, the income of both parents and the arrangements regarding custody.

Your Child Support Obligations While You Are Unemployed

In family law cases, the Court has the authority to impute income under certain circumstances. What does that mean?

The Court can impute income if you are intentionally unemployed or under-employed.

Imputing income means that the court will assign your earning capacity based on education, employment history, and prevailing job market conditions. Courts typically invoke this measure when there is evidence that a party is intentionally unemployed or underemployed. Suppose the Court determines that a person can earn more than their current income suggests. In that case, they may impute a higher income to calculate support obligations. 

Under the Child Support Guidelines, some of the situations where the courts might impute income to a parent include situations where the courts believe a parent is: 

  • Intentionally unemployed or underemployed 
  • Diverting income to avoid paying child support
  • Failing to disclose all income information
  • Failing to make a reasonable effort to seek new employment
  • Failing to provide an acceptable reason for quitting their job. 

The courts will then impute income and calculate your child support based on that figure instead of your actual earnings. 

Let’s look into what this means in specific situations. 

The circumstances surrounding unemployment matter.

The courts will consider the circumstances surrounding your unemployment when considering whether to modify your child support obligations. If your actions result in unemployment, the courts will typically find that you are intentionally unemployed and impute income. This principle applies whether you quit your job or are terminated with cause.

Parents must seek employment to support their children.

What if you are laid off or lost your job through no fault of your own? In that case, the courts expect you to actively seek employment. The family court system recognizes that job loss can be an unforeseen setback, and if you are genuinely seeking employment, the Court may consider that. 

The courts will also assess your new job and income based on what is reasonably expected, given your background, education, training, and experience. However, the courts will generally not deem someone laid off as intentionally unemployed.

For example, the pandemic impacted many areas of the economy. In Moreton v Inthavixay, a father lost his job due to COVID-19. He fulfilled his family law obligations using his EI payments but brought a motion to modify child support. The Courts emphasized the impact of the pandemic and the father’s diligent job search. It ultimately reduced the amount of support based on his current income.

Parents must keep making child support payments even when unemployed. 

Parents have a legal duty to financially support their children. Section 26(2) of the Divorce Act and section 31(1) of the Family Law Act confirm that each parent has an obligation to provide for their children to the extent that he or she can do so.

So, while unemployment will be considered, the courts will examine the whole picture. For example, if you were given a severance package, have rental properties or other income. The Court will consider those financial circumstances and expect you to pay child support using those funds. 

For example, consider Burisch v. Gosal. The father was unemployed for four years and sought to have his child support arrears expunged. During that period of unemployment, he sought new employment, but the Court noted that these were for positions for which he was underqualified. Additionally, he received funds from various sources – including a settlement for unrelated litigation – and none were used to pay his monthly child support. 

Ultimately, the Court dismissed the motion, upholding the previous child support court order. 

Navigating Life Changes with the Experienced Family Law Lawyers at Plat Simionati LLP  

Navigating family law issues while dealing with a change in circumstances can be complex and emotionally taxing. If you or your co-parent loses their job, seeking professional guidance is paramount.

Plat Simionati LLP understands the intricacies of family law, providing expert legal advice and compassionate support tailored to your unique circumstances. Our team can guide you through the legal complexities, ensuring your rights and the well-being of your family are prioritized. Whether it’s ensuring your co-parent complies with your child support order or determining if you can seek a modification of child support, one of our family lawyers is here to help. 

Don’t face these challenges alone; contact Plat Simionati LLP today. Let us guide you through the legal nuances with care, expertise, and a commitment to your family.