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The COVID -19 Pandemic and Navigating Child and Spousal Support Payments

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, some separated families may be experiencing economic, personal, and employment challenges.

Parents with these challenges, especially financial, need to know that their child and/or spousal support payments are not immediately varied or put on pause in light of COVID-19. Parents who fail to meet their existing support obligations, could see the Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) step in to collect support payments owing under a Court Order and/or separation agreement.

To avoid FRO enforcement, parents who pay child and/or spousal support, or both, should communicate with the recipient of such support, as soon as possible about any changes in their financial circumstances.

How to Vary Existing Child and Spousal Support Obligations

For parents who cannot meet their existing child and/or spousal obligations, or both, it is important for both the payor and the recipient of the support to work together to come up with a realistic amount of support payable during these difficult times.

Pursuant to the Divorce Act, an existing child support obligation may be varied in the event of a “material change of circumstances.” Likewise, a spousal support obligation may be varied if there has been a “change in the condition, means, needs or other circumstances of either former spouse […] since the making of the spousal support order.”

A Court Order and/or separation agreement should contain such a “material change of circumstances” clause. This allows both the payor of child and/or spousal support, and the recipient of such support, to review, and change the existing support arrangements in place. Indeed, a change to payor’s income because of the COVID-19 pandemic should amount to a “material change of circumstances.”

During this challenging time for separated families, those parents who have seen a change to their income stream are not hopeless.  In fact, we can help you navigate your existing child and/or spousal support obligations, if you find yourself in such circumstances. Please do not hesitate to e-mail to discuss your family law matter.

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