Family Law Legislation: Federal, Provincial and Territorial

According to the Government of Canada Department of Justice, the federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada share responsibility for family law. Some child support guidelines are under federal law, while others are under provincial or territorial laws.

If you are divorced or have applied for a divorce, the Federal Guidelines apply unless you both live in a “designated” province. There are three designated provinces: Manitoba, New Brunswick and Quebec. These provinces have made arrangements with the Government of Canada to use their own guidelines in divorce cases when both parents live there.

If there is no divorce, no matter where you live in Canada, provincial or territorial guidelines apply if:

Child support – the responsibility of both parents

The Government of Canada Department of Justice defines “child support” as the money that one parent pays to another to support their children financially after a separation or divorce.

Your children have a legal right to financial support from both parents, and you both have a legal responsibility to provide this support. A separation or divorce does not change that ongoing obligation. Even if one parent does not want to involve the other parent in child support, it is a child’s right and they are entitled to it by law. Judges may refuse to grant a divorce if they are not satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made for the continued financial support of your children. See Fact Sheet – Child Support

Child support guidelines

Child support guidelines are a set of rules and tables of amounts. They are the law for establishing child support amounts. As parents, you may both decide that another amount of child support—higher or lower—is better for you and your children. But, if you ask a judge to decide, he or she will set the child support amount according to the guidelines, unless there are special provisions which benefit a child.

For example, if one parent transfers his or her interest in an asset such as the family home or a vehicle to the other parent without compensation, it may benefit the child directly or indirectly. Parents may wish to take such special provisions into consideration when deciding on a child support amount. See Fact Sheet – Child Support

Guidelines in most provinces and territories are a lot like the Federal Guidelines (except in Quebec), but there may be some differences. It’s important to know which child support guidelines apply in your situation:

  • If you are divorced or have applied for a divorce and you both live in any Canadian province or territory other than Manitoba, New Brunswick or Quebec, Federal Guidelines apply.
  • If you both live in Manitoba, New Brunswick or Quebec, provincial guidelines apply.
  • If you live in different provinces or territories, even if one or both are designated, Federal Guidelines apply.
  • If one of you lives in Canada and the other lives in a different country, Federal Guidelines generally apply if you divorce under Canada’s Divorce Act. In some cases, the laws of the other countries may apply. It’s best to seek legal advice.
  • If you and the other parent were never married to each other and you both live in Canada, provincial or territorial guidelines apply.
  • If you and the other parent are married and have separated but are not divorcing or have already resolved child support under provincial or territorial laws, provincial or territorial guidelines apply. – See The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step

Can I pay child support directly to my child rather than to the other parent?

Child support is generally paid to the other parent, not to the child. In rare cases, judges may order that child support be paid directly to a child who is at or over the age of majority. Judges will consider the family’s situation to determine whether direct payment is appropriate.

When Does Child Support End?

Child support must be paid if a child is still a dependent and they are under 18 years of age. However, the following circumstances and criteria can terminate responsibility for child support:

  • the child has married;
  • they are 16 or older and have voluntarily left parental control;

There are situations where even if the child has turned 18 years of age they are still considered a dependent. For instance, any situation where the child is unable to support themselves due to any of the following:

  • they have a disability or illness;
  • they are attending school full-time;

In a situation where the child is 18 years of age or older and is living away from home because they are attending school, child support may have to be paid if the child’s primary residence is with the parent with custody. This circumstance usually requires child support to be paid until the child is 22 or receives a post-secondary degree or diploma.

In some of these situations, a judge can order the child support to continue past this point. If the judge decides child support must be paid past the age of 18, they will take into consideration how much the child has in earnings or income before determining the amount of child support to be paid. – See 10 Things You Should Know About Ontario Child Support in 2019

Family law can be complex. If you are dealing with issues of child support and in need of legal counseling, please contact Howard Nightingale Professional Corporation. We are centrally located in the Dufferin and Finch area; please call us at 416 663-4423 or toll free at 1-877- 224-8225. We look forward to working with you.

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