As with many areas of family law, the issues of both child support and spousal support can become emotional. However, laws are in place in Canada that clearly outline obligations surrounding support, and the provinces have jurisdiction in enforcing these laws. Becoming familiar with these laws can not only help everyone protect their own rights, but also help avoid unneeded hardship or emotional difficulty. As with just about everything surrounding family and divorce law, when knowledge replaces emotion, everyone wins.
A support order
Both child and spousal support come in different forms. A verbal promise to pay support is generally difficult to enforce. A written agreement to pay support is much more enforceable. However, support orders from courts are legal documents and absolutely enforceable under the law. If a child or spousal support order exists, there are specific enforcement tools in place (that vary according to your province of residence, of course).
Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions surrounding spousal or child support is that payments can be withheld if the other parent denies access to the child. Access issues are separate from support issues and should never be used in conjunction with one another. The legal reality in Canada is that if a court order exists to pay stipulated amounts regularly, they need to be paid. It’s that simple.
So, what happens if payment is not forthcoming? Federally, the government can seize any money that is owed, such as income-tax benefits or employment-insurance benefits. The government can take all or part of the income earned by federal employees. Passports and federal licenses can be suspended, or other garnishments of pensions can occur. The federal Department of Justice has various mechanisms at its disposal to resolve numerous enforcement issues.
Provincial enforcement mechanisms are also in place for child and spousal support. For example, in Ontario, the Ministry of Community and Social Services requests that you contact them if payment hasn’t been received within 30 days. Ministry enforcement measures include garnishing bank accounts, garnishing government payments, suspending driver’s licenses and placing a lien on property. A default hearing can also be initiated, which could result in up to 180 days in jail.
If you need a professional advice on family law, or if you’re thinking of divorce, please phone us here at Hosseini Law Firm (HLF) for a 15 minute free consultation: 416-628-4635, or please use the contact form provided on this page.