Monday, May 28, 2012

Teen pregnancy: The Law on Child Support

Jordan had always thought that the relationship he had with his girlfriend of 2 years, Claire, would last beyond their days in high school. Jordan, a Grade 11 student who just recently turned seventeen, met sixteen year old Claire during a party they both attended through a mutual friend. As their relationship got more serious, they also became sexually active, and felt that they had been regularly practising safe sex when they were with each other.

Since Jordan always remembered having protected sex with Claire, it came as quite a surprise to him when she told him that she was pregnant. He first received the news six months ago, when Claire sat him down at her home to tell him that she was expecting. The couple had decided to keep the baby, hoping to raise the child together despite the possible hardships of becoming a teen parent.

A couple of months ago Jordan and Claire broke off their relationship, as the strain of becoming parents  took a toll on each of them. Claire is still committed to raising her child, but Jordan is unsure of what his role as a father will involve. Jordan lost his part time job working at a retail store, and is worried about having to pay child support. Claire does not currently hold a part time job, and both teens are wondering if raising a child will get in the way of graduating high school on time. He is unsure about what the obligations of paying child support will mean for him, and he is worried about how he can afford it.

As the days to his child's birth comes closer, Jordan has started to become more and more worried about having to financially and emotionally support his child, and he has questioned whether the baby is actually his own. There was a period of several months where the couple had broken up, and he wonders if Claire had had other sexual partners who could possibly be the father of the child. If so, Jordan wonders if and how he can establish paternity once the child is born. He is unsure what the legal obligations are if he is given paternity forms to sign, and if paternity is not established in his favour, he wonders if he will still have to pay child support.

What are Jordan's legal rights when it comes to becoming a father?

Legal information

All parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children until at least the age of 18. That obligation begins once the baby is born. When a parent does not live with their children, they still have a legal obligation to provide financial support.

If Jordon is unsure if the child is biologically his, he talk to Claire about having the baby get a paternity test. If she does not agree Jordon is entitled to ask the courts to order one. ( To read more on this process and help available, click here)

Child support is the money that is paid by parents for the financial support of their children. This is outlined in the Family Law Act. The objective of this law is, “to establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures that they benefit from the financial means of their parents.” (To read more on this law, click here

Jordan and Claire have the option to set up their own child support agreement outside of the court system. If Jordan and Claire set up your own support agreement, they have some flexibility about the amount that will be paid, so long as they both come to an agreement and it is a fair amount. This method of arranging a support amount is common among parents. If the parties decide on the child support arrangement on their own, it must be registered with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to ensure enforcement of the child support payments. Once a family is registered with FRO, the process is as follows: 1) the parent paying the support makes the payments to FRO, and then 2) FRO sends the money to the parent who is owed the money. Moreover, the FRO can take action if the parent does not pay.

If the parents cannot agree on an amount of child support payment, they can take a look at the Child Support Guidelines outlined in the Family Law Act. These guidelines, based on the payor's income, outline what Jordan should expect to be paying in terms of support . The support amount is based on the average costs of raising the child considering the income level of the parent.

When a dispute about child support goes to court, in order to determine the amount of support that is owed, the court may look at the following: a copy of both parties personal income taxes filed with Canada Revenue Agency, a copy of assessment from Canada Revenue Agency, most recent statement of earnings, and if either party is on employment insurance or social assistance- a total income from the applicable source. The type of custody arrangement is also a factor, as the guidelines assume that the child spends the majority of his or her time with the parent who is receiving the child support. Needless to say, if faced with this scenario it is best to obtain legal advice to decide the best course of action.

For more information check out these Family Law Legal Resources :

If you are under age 18 in Ontario and have legal questions about child support, please contact a lawyer at JFCY at 416-920-1633, or toll-free at 1-866-999-5329.  

Scenario was written by Inez Leutenegger, a PLE  Team Member volunteer and paralegal student. Legal information written by Sarah Mehta Alexander, a JFCY volunteer who is a Master of Laws student. Legal information was reviewed by JFCY.

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