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Even court-ordered child support is not set in stone

The laws of Alberta and other provinces recognize the duty of parents to support and provide for their children. Whether you and the other parent were married or never even lived together, you are both responsible to provide the child with the financial support that allows the child to maintain a standard of living comparable to that he or she would enjoy if both parents were in the home.

It is possible that you and your ex-partner worked out an agreement for support payments. However, unless the agreement is in writing, you may have little legal ground to stand on if a dispute arises. On the other hand, if you have a court approved support agreement, you may be wondering if you would ever have the right to change the amount of support.

Change is possible

If are paying court-ordered child support, the judge based the amount on a formula that considered many factors, including your income and any other family obligations you may have. Your orders to pay child support remain in effect until your child reached the age of majority, which is 18 in Alberta, or longer in some circumstances. However, a situation may arise that makes it difficult for you to meet your obligation, and you may qualify for a reduction of your child support amount if any of the following apply:

  • A job loss or decrease in your income
  • A change in your parenting time that gives you more physical custody of the child
  • New and unexpected personal expenses, such as medical bills, that make it difficult for you to meet your child support obligation
  • New family obligations, such as if you marry or have another child

On the other side of the coin, your ex-partner may also request that the court modify your child custody order by increasing your payments. Some examples of valid reasons for doing so include sudden medical or educational expenses for the child or the fact that your income has substantially increased. You may not request a reduction in your child support payments if your former partner gets married.

Dealing with hardships as soon as possible

In an ideal situation, you and your child's other parent have regular communication about your child's well-being and any circumstances that may affect child support payments. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to simply stop making payments because you are facing a financial hardship. Communicating with your parenting partner is critical to avoiding negative consequences.

Additionally, you would be wise to seek the counsel of a legal professional for any matters concerning child support arrangements, whether you have a formal order from family court or a verbal agreement with your ex-partner.

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