April 15, 2020 | Child Support

Child support obligations during Covid-19

The most common questions we have received since the COVID-19 pandemic from our clients are those with respect to child support payments. Will child support change during the Covid-19 pandemic in Canada. We have received calls from parents on both sides of the spectrum. Some who are worried about paying child support and others who are worried that they will stop receiving payments.  

On April 9, 2020, Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian economy has lost one million jobs in March which is unprecedented — the worst recorded single-month. Statistics Canada has also warned that April could be even worse. Canada’s current unemployment rate is 7.8 per cent.

In parallel with the issues tenants and landlords are facing, it is important for parents not to take advantage of the pandemic to skirt their child support obligations. If you can continue to pay your child support, we advise you continue to pay it and adjustments will be made at the end of the year, as is always the case in order to compensate for any overpayment due to a change in income up or down.

Although child support is on the list of the urgent cases the Quebec Superior court is currently hearing, the burden for urgency is very high. On two occasions in the past month, Quebec Superior Court judges have advised our lawyers that child support modifications will not be made now due to the pandemic. Any adjustments should be made when the parties exchange income tax returns and calculate any amounts owing for the previous year.

The message is therefore as follows: keep making your support payments even if your financial situation has changed for the moment. Revenue Quebec’s support-payment collection program will continue to collect and distribute support payments during this time. If you are one of the many Quebecers who has unfortunately lost your job, we would advise you to send payments directly to Revenu Québec via a “payment order” as any benefits you receive from the government cannot be garnished in the same way as your salary.

To clarify, a spokesperson from the Department of Justice specified that similarly to employment insurance, “The Canada Emergency Response Benefit related to COVID-19 is not garnish-able to satisfy family support obligations.” 

Read More: COVID-19: impact on shared custody

To conclude, below is a recap of the top 7 things to remember about child support during the Covid-19:

  1. Think of your children and remember that your support payments are going to your children and not to your ex-spouse, any decisions you make should take into account their best interests;

  2. If you are able to: continue to pay the child support as per your last judgment or agreement. If you cannot try to make an agreement with your ex-spouse to reduce the obligations if it is not be collected by the MRQ, if not try to reach an agreement which can them be homologated by the court;

  3. If your financial situation has changed significantly and you are not eligible or have not yet received government benefits and are not able to continue your payments, speak to your ex-spouse in order to come to an amicable agreement to adjust your support payments temporarily;

  4. The Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) and the  Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (Child Support Adjustment Service “SARPA”) are currently suspended. Therefore, the only way to reduce or stop payments at the moment is by agreement with the person receiving the payments;

  5. If you are receiving government benefits such as CERB or Employment Insurance, you must make the payments to Revenu Québec via a “payment order” as the benefits are not garnished as your salary would be;

  6. Stay calm and rest assured that any and all necessary adjustments and calculations for arrears will be made in due time;

  7. Do not stop support payments on your own accord. Doing so will not be looked at favourably by a court once the time comes for adjustments to be made and you could find yourself with a significant arrears of child support to pay at the end.

If you have any further questions about your child support obligations during this uncertain time, do not hesitate to call us for a consultation.