– By Par Sandhu, Paralegal
During these unprecedented times, many parents have lost their jobs, experienced a decrease in earnings, or had their childcare cancelled. Further complicating matters, British Columbia courts have suspended all non-emergency sittings.
So what is the most effective way to change child support Orders to reflect your newly reduced income? While the Courts have restricted sittings, consent child support Orders continue to be processed. Of course, both parties would need to agree to a reduction of child support payments during COVID 19 for this to be an option.
If you have lost your job due to COVID 19 and plan to make a claim to vary a child support Order it is important to include proof of lost or reduced income, such as a Record of Employment, termination letter, or recent pay stubs showing decreased hours and/or income.
Material Change of Circumstances
As set out above the Courts would typically find that a reduction of annual income is sufficient proof of a “material change in circumstances” to change child support. The Supreme Court of Canada defines a material change in circumstances as a change that is “substantial, continuing, and if known at the time, would likely have resulted in a different Order”.
In the early stages in the COVID 19 pandemic there is a great deal of uncertainty as to whether some parents will resume employment and/or have similar if not identical earnings once the pandemic is over. In cases where parents have been laid off or lost their job indefinitely they would be able to prove a material change of circumstances in order to decrease child support paid. We recommend speaking to a lawyer in order to determine whether you meet the threshold of material change of circumstance prior to proposing a reduction or suspension of child support.
COVID 19 Relief Resources
It’s imperative that until consent is reached or a further order is made to reduce child support you make all efforts to pay child support on time and to pay in whole or as much as possible. The Court will likely find that child support payments are paramount to other payments, creditors or expenses.
There are many resources available to families which have recently been announced by the provincial and federal government as well as banks such as mortgage deferrals, emergency funding, employment insurance, student loan deferrals, vehicle insurance deferrals and utility payment freezes. If you are required to pay child support and intend to make a claim to have support reduced or suspended due to COVID 19 it is likely the Courts will assess whether you have availed yourself of financial relief available by the government and other creditors.