You are here

I can't afford to pay support because of COVID-19, what can I do?

I can't afford to pay support because of COVID-19, what can I do?
Reviewed: 
September 3, 2020
Answer

If you're earning less or have lost your job because of COVID-19, you may not be able to make your child support or spousal support payments.

If you have a court order or separation agreement, you may want to change it. This is true especially if the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is enforcing your support payments. The FRO continues to collect the current payment until the court order or separation agreement is changed.

When support payments can be changed

Support payments in a court order or separation agreement can only be changed in certain situations.

Child support

One reason to change child support is if there's a change to the payor parent's income.

Child support is generally calculated using the child support tables. The tables show you how much you should pay based on your income and the number of children you have. This free online calculator can help you figure out the table amount of child support.

Spousal support

Spousal support can only be changed if you can show a material change in circumstances. This means you have to show that your situation has changed so much that your court order or separation agreement needs to be changed.

Spousal support is usually decided using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG). The SSAGs use 2 different formulas. One is for partners who have no children together, and the other is for partners who have children together. This free online calculator can give you an idea about the amount of spousal support that might be paid, but it only does simple calculations and it only takes employment income into account.

How to change support if you and your partner agree

Check to see if your court order or separation agreement says what you have to do to change it. For example, it might say that you have to try mediation before going to court. Even if your court order doesn't say this, you might want to try an alternative dispute resolution process before going to court. Mediators can help you find a solution that works for both of you.

If you both agree to change or end your separation agreement, you can make a new agreement.

If you both agree to change or end your court order, you can go to court and bring a motion to change on consent by filing:

How to change support if you and your partner don't agree

You must go to court and bring a motion to change by filing a Form 15: Motion to Change. A motion to change is the process to ask a judge to change a court order or separation agreement.

To change a separation agreement that was filed with the court, you must bring your motion at a Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice. Find your local court for more information.

To change a court order, you must bring your motion at the same level of court that made the original court order. So, if the Superior Court of Justice made the order, you must go back to a Superior Court of Justice where you or your partner live. But, if the orders are about your child, you usually go to the court in the municipality where your child lives.

Note: As of September 1, 2020, there's a new motion to change form. But, the courts will continue to accept the old motion to change form until December 1, 2020.

For more information on changing child support, read the question How do I bring a motion to change child support?

For more information on changing spousal support, read the question How do I bring a motion to change spousal support?

Court filings

You can file your documents:

Legal help

You can talk to a lawyer who can tell you how strong your case is and whether a judge is likely to agree that your court order or separation agreement should be changed.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case. For example, they could help you draft your motion to change or draft a new separation agreement dealing with support.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

Mediation

Subsidized mediation services are available in every family court location in Ontario. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income and number of dependents. Mediation services are currently being provided online. Contact a service provider for an appointment or more information.

And if your case is already in court, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free.

Legal Aid Ontario

You can get summary legal advice and duty counsel services over the phone from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) at 1-800-668-8258 or, in Toronto, at 416-979-1446. Because of COVID-19, anyone can use this service to get legal advice and information at this time. It doesn't matter what your income is.

Emergency family law referral telephone line

You can call the Law Society of Ontario's temporary emergency family law referral telephone line if you have a family law issue and you:

  • don't have a lawyer
  • don't know if your issue is urgent or not
  • don't know your next steps if your matter is urgent

If this is your situation, the referral service will help you get 30 minutes of free legal advice and information from a family law lawyer. Call 416-947-3310 or 1-800-268-7568.

Parlez Français