Ontario deadbeat dads be warned. Your face could be online for all the world to see, courtesy of the Ontario government. It’s one way of finding parents who skip town on child support.
Good Parents Pay
The province has been posting “wanted” posters of (mostly) deadbeat dads since 2007. The colourful feature, at www.goodparentspay.com, asks the public to help find wayward parties by contacting the MInistry of Children, Community and Social Services online or by mail. Responses are anonymous to protect whistleblowers’ privacy.
Parents Get Creative
Parents have all kinds of creative ways of avoiding child support. Ontario courts are onto the usual ones like:
- quitting work
- staying unemployed
- taking a low-paying job
- hiding income and assets
- not using property like a rental unit to make money
- withholding income information
- or making unreasonable deductions.
When you get creative, Ontario family court guesses what your income should be under federal child support guidelines and forces you to pay that amount, even if you are making way less. It’s calling imputing income.
Chasing Down Non-Payers
The province’s Family Responsibility Office (FRO) can chase down non-payers, armed with a court order, copy of a separation agreement (filed in court and registered with the FRO) or notice of calculation or recalculation. Just like anything in life, there are legal consequences for parents who fail to make payments or stop paying. The FRO can:
- Garnishee wages or federal payments (income tax refunds, EI, CPP).
- Suspend driver’s licenses or passports.
- Seize assets like bank accounts.
- Tell credit bureaus — hello, credit rating!
Jail Time for Dad Who Fled to U.S.
Walter Garrick was living it up on his trust fund in a New York penthouse when the FRO caught up to him in 2017. The Columbia University grad was $55,000 in arrears. Ontario Superior Court of Justice was unimpressed with testimony his family financially assisted the child or that Garrick hadn’t applied for work since the late 2000s. He got 90 days in jail.
When Your Income Changes
If you genuinely can’t pay, your ex-partner or spouse can agree to reduced child support by amending the separation agreement or updating the settlement terms in a child support court order. The revised documents can be filed with the court for future enforcement.
Going to Court to Lower Child Support
Family court judges can also be asked to change child support payments. Courts may adjust your payments for a short while if you have too many debts, can’t afford both child support and visits with your child or support other dependents. You may not be successful, but it’s worth trying if child support is stressing you out.
Who Has the Better Life
Courts compare your standard of living to your ex-spouse’s or partners to arrive at who should contribute the most child support. Be aware your payments could change again if the court decides you can afford more.
New Partner, New Income
When you remarry or move in with a partner, your combined couples income is calculated for child support purposes. You may end up paying more if your income goes up. Take note if your income is over $150,000: the federal child support guidelines may be excessively generous for your child’s needs. You may be able to argue the amount downwards.
Tracking Nine Online Celebrities
Parents who skip out altogether become online celebrities. Your name, photo, description, last known location and usual occupation are posted on Good Parents Pay if you miss more than six payments and can’t be located. Current celebrities include:
- ‘Boz’, an Oshawa construction worker who’s 6’1″ and 175 lbs.
- David, a London, U.K., architect who speaks Afrikaans, Hebrew and Romanian
- ‘Coop’, the freckled Oshawa millwright in his mid-50s
- ‘Bro’, a tattooed, dimpled factory worker from St. Mary’s
- Graham, a green-eyed Bucharest electrician
- Jurgen, the Dutch-speaking Mississauga salesman
- Bertrand, a 5’9″ cab driver last seen in Nancy, France
- Daniel, a Munich real estate consultant in his 60s
- and Jeffrey, the Peterborough carpenter with green or black eyes (maybe both).
Most Parents Making Child Support Payments
We’re not saying all dads are deadbeats. Ability to pay definitely impacts whether court orders are honoured. The good news is up to 91 per cent of divorced or separated Canadian parents are making their child support payments on time. Only 15 per cent of kids never see a “missing in action” parent.
What Canada’s Future Holds
Will high unemployment (up to two million Canadians out of work) and slow economic growth caused by COVID-19 affect child support compliance? It’s too early to say, but the federal government predicts a recovery is a ways out, possibly by the end of 2021. In the meantime, the province will keep posting those photos and descriptions. Could anything possibly be more embarrassing than being turned in by friends or neighbours?
Enforce a Child Support Order in Ontario
Axess Law Ontario virtual lawyers give you legal advice about changing child support orders. Virtual family lawyers are available 7 days a week, at times that fit your schedule. Dial toll-free to 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form to make an appointment. In person meetings with licensed Ontario lawyers are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.