Support Payments During the Pandemic

1.    I am a debtor of child support and no longer have an income or have a reduced income. Do I still have to comply with the child support order? 

Parents must comply with a child support order or an agreement between parents, for instance in family mediation. However, given the current situation, the parents’ annual income may have changed, which could affect the amount of child support payable.

Child support is normally determined based on the following:

  • annual income of each parent;
  • number of children;
  • custody time;
  • certain additional expenses to meet a child’s needs, if any.

A change in one of these elements can affect the child support payable.

Child support payments should be maintained insofar as possible. The current situation can affect both parents. Suspending child support collection or payments may not be the best solution at it will deprive the child of amounts required to meet its essential needs.

2.    I pay spousal support and no longer have an income or have a reduced income. Do I still have to comply with the support order?

Yes, you must comply with a child support order or an agreement to that effect. Spousal support is not calculated based on a scale the way child support is. Support payments should be maintained insofar as possible.

You can try to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse. Certain mediation sessions may be free depending on your situation.

For more information about mediation, mediation costs or to find a mediator, please visit the section on mediation in the Ministère de la Justice website.

A judgment is necessary to modify the support payments collected by Revenu Québec. You can obtain it by using the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS). The modified judgment will be transmitted to Revenu Québec, which will then adjust the amount collected and paid.

Recipients of last resort assistance who are creditors of support must inform the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité Sociale whether they wish to reach an agreement to cancel, reduce or suspend the support payments. In the context of an HAS application, the creditor who receives last resort assistance must send a support application notice at least 10 days before submitting the agreement.

All proceedings before the Superior Court instituted by a party who receives last resort assistance to cancel, reduce or suspend support payments must be notified to the Attorney General of Québec.

3.    The support payments I make are collected by Revenu Québec. Why can’t Revenu Québec stop collecting these payments during the pandemic?

Revenu Québec is enforcing a judgment rendered by the court. To change the amount it collects, Revenu Québec must receive a new judgment setting out a new support amount.

4.    If there is a change to one of the elements taken into account when calculating support payments, should I hurry to apply for a review?

It is best to proceed with caution, primarily because:

  • the changes to parents’ income due to the COVID-19 pandemic are temporary;
  • parents’ medium and long-term income is hard to establish for the time being;
  • according to the rules governing support, the parents’ foreseeable income for the next 12 months as well as their assets can be taken into consideration.

The Québec and Canadian governments are taking various measures to minimize the impact of the pandemic on each individual’s financial situation.

The Child Support Payments Calculation Tool is available to help you estimate child support payments you must make or will receive based on your individual situation. The interactive form costs nothing to use, and is simple and quick to complete. Simply enter your data, and the calculation will be carried out automatically.

Before adjusting the amount of child support payable, if you’ve lost your job, for instance, it would be best to know the amounts to which you will be entitled in order to determine your income. 

The child support payment amount can also include costs related to children, for example daycare costs. If these costs are no longer the same since the last judgment fixing the support payment amount, they should be taken into account when reviewing the support payment amount.

5.    Can I try to reach an agreement with my ex-spouse to modify the support amount?

You can try to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse by using the Child Support Payments Calculation Tool.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents who have information about their income can call on a family mediator to facilitate discussion and work on reaching an agreement. Many mediators work remotely, which helps avoid direct contact between people. 

Certain mediation sessions may be free depending on your situation.

For more information about mediation, mediation costs or to find a mediator, please visit the section on mediation in the Ministère de la Justice website.

A judgment is necessary to modify the support payments collected by Revenu Québec. You can obtain it by using the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) The modified judgment will be transmitted to Revenu Québec, which will then adjust the amount collected and paid.

Recipients of last resort assistance who are creditors of support must inform the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité Sociale whether they wish to reach an agreement to cancel, reduce or suspend the support payments. In the context of an HAS application, the creditor who receives last resort assistance must send a support application notice at least 10 days before submitting the agreement.

All proceedings before the Superior Court instituted by a party who receives last resort assistance to cancel, reduce or suspend support payments must be notified to the Attorney General of Québec.
Once your financial situation has stabilized, this amount must be reviewed as it is parents’ responsibility to make sure that the support payments are up to date based on both parents’ income.

6.    What should I do if my financial situation is too difficult and I can’t reach an agreement with my ex-spouse?

In this case, an application can be brought before the Superior Court.

7.    What income is used when determining child support?

For this calculation, annual income is income from all sources and includes: 

  • wages, salaries and other remuneration; 
  • net income from the operation of a business or self-employment; 
  • employment insurance and parental insurance benefits; 
  • personal support payments from another person; 
  • interest, taxable amounts of dividends and other investment income; 
  • net rental income; 
  • benefits paid under other legislation as part of a pension or compensation plan; 
  • other income. 

Annual income includes all the income received by each parent, except the following amounts, which are not considered to be annual income and therefore are not used in calculating disposable income:  

  • family-related government transfers (child assistance payments, Canada Child Benefit (CCB), etc.); 
  • amounts received under the Work Premium program; 
  • last resort financial assistance (welfare) benefits; 
  • amounts granted under a financial assistance program for education expenses managed by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport.

8.    Why is it hard to determine or review child support payments during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Child support is determined based on both parents’ income. In the Child Support Determination Form, parents must enter their income for the current year or, if applicable, their foreseeable income for the next 12 months. However, during this pandemic, many parents find it hard to foresee their income for the next 12 months. 

The Canadian government has announced various measures to help individuals obtain financial assistance quickly. They include the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy for businesses. For more information on these measures, see Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

9.    If I wait for my income situation to stabilize before asking for a support payment modification, can my income reduction during the pandemic be taken into account?

Yes, once your income situation has stabilized, it will be possible to ask for a support payment review for the period during which your income was reduced.

If the payments are collected by Revenu Québec, a judgment that clearly indicates the periods covered by the adjustment must be obtained. For instance, support payments will be reduced for a few months before returning to normal.

You can use the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) to obtain this judgment following an agreement with your ex-spouse or family mediation.

10.    How can I get specific legal advice regarding my situation?

Citizens who have questions of a legal nature can consult online resources available on the website of the Ministère de la Justice or Éducaloi.

The Community Justice Centers can also be consulted for free information, support and referral services.
 
To reach a lawyer, it is possible to contact legal aid offices, childcare services in criminal matters or the directory of lawyers of the Barreau du Québec.

For free assistance services for victims, their relatives and witnesses to a crime, the Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVAC) can be contacted.

11.    Where can I find general information about family law?

You can find information on the following websites:

You can call Info-Social 811 (free psychosocial hotline open 24/7):

Call Info-Social 811 if you are experiencing:

  • stress, anxiety;
  • prolonged emotional reactions (frequent crying, irritability, etc.);
  • feelings of panic;
  • overwhelming and frightening thoughts that won’t go away;
  • social repercussions from the illness.

Psychosocial intervention professionals will provide support and give you advice and information based on your needs.

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