How to Change Child Support in Barrie, Ontario

child supportIn Ontario, child support can be changed if there is a change in circumstances such as a change in income or a change in residence of the children. Here are the steps. 

The first step is to determine the payor's income. (The "payor" is the person who has the children less than 40% of the time and is paying child support.) For employees, use line 150 of the income tax return. If they have recently changed jobs or your income has changed, you have to use the actual present income.

If the children are with each parent more than 40%, different rules apply. This is called "Shared Custody". Here is an article that explains the process. 

If the payor is self-employed, determining her or his income can be more complicated. Here is an article for you.

If you have  "Split Custody", child support is calculated differently. "Split Custody" means that each parent has one or more children residing primarily with them. For example, Dad and Mom have three children. Frankie and Tommy live primarily with Dad and see Mom every second weekend whereas Suzy lives primarily with Mom and sees Dad every second weekend.  

Here is how you calculate child support if you have split custody . 

If the children are with one parent more than 40% of the time, then the other parent pays according to the Child Support Guidelines. It is a grid that prescribes the amount of support to be paid.

To look up the amount of child support according to the Guidelines, go here.  

When you look it up, you  have to ensure you are using the correct grid for the province where the payor lives, the payor's income and the number of children. It's pretty easy to look up.

In addition to the base amount of child support according to the grid, if your children have "extraordinary" costs related to extra curricular activities, these costs are shared in proportion to the gross annual income of the parents.

For example, if your child is on an elite competitive swim team, competing in swim meets across the province and receiving coaching, the costs of this sport will be shared but if your child is just taking some swim lessons at the YMCA, the costs are not shared. The recipient of child support is to pay the costs of the swim lessons from the child support.

In addition, the cost of medical expenses, the after-tax cost of daycare, summer camps and post secondary education costs are among the costs shared. There are other costs that are considered "extraordinary" and are shared.

Once you have determined the amount of child support, you can change the existing agreement by consent. If you can't reach an agreement, you may have to go to Court.

You are wise to speak to a lawyer to ensure you do the variation correctly. You can do either a Variation of Separation Agreement or a Variation of a Court Order. If is it not done correctly, it won't be legally enforceable. It is easy to do it with a little help from a lawyer. 

If you have to go to Court, we can help. We frequently meet with clients and help them create all of the legal documents necessary to do a variation. It usually takes our lawyers about two hours to complete all of the documentation. Clients tell us this is a very good investment.

A lawyer can represent you in Court if you wish. Of course, having a lawyer at your side is best but it is costly. You have to weigh the costs versus the benefits.

In some cases, you can retroactively adjust child support. Generally, the Court will go back 3 years depending on the circumstances.

Much of family law is "shades of gray". Child support is more straight forward than many areas of the law. It really is not an issue that needs a judge to determine. With some legal advice, you should be able to resolve the amount of child support by agreement. If you are unsure, meet with a lawyer and get some advice.

Collaborative Musical! Another Great Video!

Here is another great video. It's another funny one! The first musical!! 

How to Make the Most Out of Summer Access

Summer time... and the living is easy....or so the song goes. 

If you are separated, you want to make the most out of your time with the kids. It is tempting to spend lots of money, schedule every minute of the day and do every activity possible with the children. Your time is limited so you want to make the most of it.

I know... because that's my personality too. 

Sometimes it is the mundane time spent together that can be the most memorable. Last summer my 15 year old son had to earn some money to contribute to his expensive mountain bike. Finding work for a 15 year old is nearly impossible so, I had him seal my paved driveway. As you can see by the photos, my 12 year old pitched in too!  

I took the time off work to do the work with him. This clearly was not a good decision economically but it was a great lesson about the value of money to my son.  It was hard work and took forever but over the course of the week, we got it done. Our driveway is now (in our humble opinion) the best sealed driveway in our community! He "paid off" his debt to me for his bike and we had some great time bonding while swishing tar over the driveway in the heat of the summer. 

It wasn't a trip to Disney Land but it stands out as one of the best events of the summer last year. My sons and I were working together. It was great. 

Richard Sharp, a lawyer in England, in his excellent blog called Family Law Collaborative Divorce did a post about summer time access in which he offers good advice for separated parents about summer access. 

My last blog was called "Five Ways to Resolve Summer Access Scheduling". Richard's blog offers complementary advice.  Richard writes:

Do plan early and commit to decisions made - Plan the arrangements for the summer holidays as early as possible. If you commit to doing something make sure it is followed through. Last minute clashes and changes are not easy to resolve. Children need their parents to make decisions and to stick to them

Do support your child’s contact with the other parent – Be positive about your child spending time with their other parent. Let the children know it is OK with you that they are going away and that you will be OK too whilst they are away. It’s best for kids when both parents can be supportive of their activities and share in their excitement.

Do help children maintain contact with the other parent – Provide the other parent with contact information and details as to where the children are going to be and who with. Let the children communicate with the other parent whilst away.

Don’t talk through the children - It is tempting to relay information through the children when talking with the ex is difficult. But messaging between households is a burden children shouldn’t have to bear. Make sure you are the one delivering news about trips you are proposing to take and scheduling needs surrounding them.

Don’t ambush the other parent - When making holiday plans, don’t set the other parent up. “I would really love for you to come with me to Spain, but it’s really up to your Mum to say yes” is neither fair on the child nor Mum. Instead, “A trip abroad would be lots of fun but before we can make plans, I need to talk with Mum to see if we can work out the details.”

Don’t make your kids pay the price - If you make a decision to foot the holiday bill or move your schedule around to make a trip work, don’t make your kids pay the price. Whilst a trip abroad may be a wonderful experience for the child, it probably won’t be so wonderful for very long if the child has to listen to what Dad did or didn’t do to help. Children do not want to take sides – don’t make them.

And finally …..Conflict is the major cause of unhappiness and poor outcomes for children. Let’s have family fun in the sun this summer by focusing on the needs of children.driveway

Summer holidays are a great opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with your children. Enjoy every moment together. Swish some tar on your driveway together.

Don't forget the old saying: "families that spread tar together, stick together!" .... or something like that....

Five Ways of Resolving Summer Access Scheduling

Golf father and sonScheduling summer access can be a challenge. If you are a planner, you'll want to schedule your holidays with the children well in advance so that you can, of course, make plans. If you are a more spontaneous person, planning in advance may seem really inconvenient and unnecessary. Here are some ways of resolving (or avoiding) this annual challenge:

1) Negotiate an agreement as to when you will each exchange dates for summer. The planner will want it to be well in advance of summer whereas the spontaneous person will be happy with a shorter time-frame. Come to an agreement as to the schedule and then both respect it. For example, "Tiger and Elin agree to determine the sharing of care of the children during the children's summer vacation each year before June 1st with each parent having care of the children equally."

2) You can define each parent's share of the summer in very specific and unambiguous terms such as "Tiger has care of the children every July and Elin has care of the children every August, alternating each year".

3) Some parents will simply continue the normal schedule since both are working during the children's summer vacation. So they may agree "The regular rotation of the children between Tiger and Elin's home will continue during the children's summer vacation except that the drop off and pick up of the children will be at the children's daycare or summer camp." In this case, neither Tiger nor Elin will have care of the children for any special summer vacation time.

4) Other parents will agree to a different rotation of the children from the regular schedule. They may have care for the children on a two week rotation during the summer months only. The issue can sometimes be when the rotation begins each year. A special event such as Labour Weekend can be used as a triggering event. For example: "The children will be with each parent on a rotating two week basis such that the children will be with Elin during the PGA Canadian Open in Toronto each year."

5) Often both parents want some time alone with their children for their "vacation" each year with the  remainder of the summer holidays going according to the regular rotation. For example, "Tiger and Elin may each have the children in their care for 14 consecutive days each summer. Tiger must choose his summer vacation dates by May 1st each year and Elin must choose her dates by June 1st each year in even numbered years with the opposite occurring in odd numbered years. The care of the children for the remainder of the children's summer vacation will be according to the regular parenting schedule except pick up and drop off shall be at Elin's home (instead of at the school)."

Regardless of your efforts to plan the perfect summer vacation with your children, you always need to be flexible should special events arise. A teenage child may have to take summer school thus scuttling your plans to go camping. Your spouse's family reunion may be planned during your time with the children. Your child may be invited to a birthday party on the day you planned to go to Wonderland. You may even be invited to play in a PGA golf tournament when you are scheduled to have the kids.

If last minute changes are necessary, treat your ex spouse the way you would like be treated and remember to always do what is best for the children. Consider the issue from the children's point of view. Remember the clichés: "take the high road", "bite the bullet" and "do the right thing" when faced with a last minute change in the schedule. 

Lastly, if you and your spouse's names are "Tiger" and "Elin", I have some clauses ready for your use. Just give me a call.