Frequently Asked Questions

In these challenging times, the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on families and individuals have given rise to a number of questions regarding child and family support and other Family Law matters. These FAQs address these concerns.

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below provide Canadians with information on Family Support Obligations in the Context of COVID-19.

Family Support (Child and Spousal Support)

  • Q1. I receive family support payments (child support and/or spousal support). If the payor has lost income because of COVID-19, will I continue to get family support payments?

    A1. Yes, support payors have a continued legal obligation to make their support payments, as set out in the court order or agreement.

    These obligations continue to be enforced under provincial and territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs (MEP).

    If support payments made through Maintenance Enforcement Programs
    If your support payments are being paid through MEPs and you are not receiving your support payments, you may wish to contact officials from your MEP to discuss your situation. You can find contact information for the provincial and territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs on Justice Canada Enforcing Support web page.

    If family support is set out in an agreement
    If family support is set out in an agreement, and if both parties agree to it, the amount can be changed. If you are unwilling to agree, family justice services may be able to help you. Information on family justice services available in your jurisdiction is available here.

    If you have a court order related to family support or spousal support
    If you have a court order, only a judge can change it. If your agreement relates to child support, a judge can base the revised order on an agreement between the parents if it seems fair and reasonable in the situation. If the parents do not agree, or if the agreement does not seem fair and reasonable, the judge would use the applicable child support guidelines to revise the order.

    If your agreement relates to spousal support, a judge can base the revised order on an agreement between the spouses. If the spouses do not agree, the judge would determine whether to vary the order based on the requirements under the applicable legislation.

  • Q2. I have lost my job or have reduced income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do I still have to pay child support?

    A2. Yes, parents must continue to pay child support set out in an order or agreement. Parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially after separation or divorce and children have a legal right to that support.

    Parents can change the child support amount included in an agreement if both parents agree to the change. If you have a child support order, only a judge can change it. A judge can base the revised order on an agreement between the parents if it seems fair and reasonable in the situation. If the parents do not agree, or if the agreement does not seem fair and reasonable, the judge would use the applicable child support guidelines to revise the order.

    Provincial and territorial governments, through their maintenance enforcement programs, are primarily responsible for enforcing child support obligations.

    If your financial circumstances have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact the Maintenance Enforcement Program in your jurisdiction to discuss your options.

    Contact information for the provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs is available here.

  • Q3. I have lost my job or have reduced income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do I still have to pay spousal support?

    A3. Yes, you must continue to pay spousal support set out in an order or agreement.

    Spouses can change a written agreement if they both agree to the changes. If you have a support order from a court, only a judge can change it. A judge can base the revised order on an agreement between the spouses. If the spouses do not agree, the judge would determine whether to vary the order based on the requirements under the applicable legislation.

    Provincial and territorial governments, through their maintenance enforcement programs, are primarily responsible for enforcing spousal support obligations.

    If your financial circumstances have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact the Maintenance Enforcement Program in your jurisdiction to discuss your options.

    Contact information for the provincial and territorial maintenance enforcement programs is available here.

  • Q4. Can I get a child support or spousal support order, or change an existing support order, during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    A4. Yes, support orders including changes to them can be obtained through courts. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the administration of justice, including the court system. Please contact your provincial or territorial Ministry of Justice/Attorney General for information on the impact of COVID-19 on court applications and hearings. Links to these websites can be found here.

    You may also wish to get professional advice regarding your situation from a family law lawyer. Most provincial and territorial law societies offer a lawyer referral service, which can refer you to a lawyer who can provide an initial consultation for a small fee or at no charge. Links to some referral services can be found here.

  • Q5. Are provincial child support recalculation services open during the COVID-19 pandemic?

    A5. Yes, several provinces and territories have child support recalculation services which may be open during the pandemic. These are services administered by provincial and territorial governments that can adjust child support, either up or down, to reflect updated income information without going to court.

    Please contact the child support recalculation services in your province or territory, if available, for information on the impact of COVID-19 on the services. Links to these websites are available here.

  • Q6. Will the federal government still be garnishing federal payments for family support?

    A6. Yes, the Government of Canada will continue to garnish federal funds such as Income Tax refunds, Employment Insurance benefits, Canada Pension Plan payments, Old Age Security payments, and the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC) including the one-time special payment of Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC related to COVID-19). Garnishment and diversion of federal salaries, pensions and payments to federal contractors will also continue.

    As part of its mandate, the Department of Justice provides support to the provinces and territories in enforcing family support payments for the benefit of Canadian families and children. As many families and individuals are facing economic uncertainty due to the impacts of the pandemic, this is especially important now so that children and families are not put at further risk.

  • Q7. Will the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) related to COVID-19 be garnished to satisfy family support obligations?

    A7. No, the CERB is not garnishable to satisfy family support obligations. The CERB is unique and time-limited. The CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or are home because of school and daycare closures. As such, it is not garnishable. For more information on the CERB, please visit the webpage here.

  • Q8. In the context of COVID-19, will the special one-time payment of Goods and Services Tax Credit be garnished to satisfy family support obligations?

    A8. Yes, there is no change to the garnishment of the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC) under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act. Garnishment of the GSTC includes the one-time special payment, which is part of the federal government’s Emergency Response Plan to COVID-19.

  • Q9. In the context of COVID-19, will the new Employment Insurance - Emergency Response Benefit (EI-ERB) be garnished to satisfy family support obligations?

    A9. Yes. Employment Insurance benefits, including the new EI-ERB, are still garnishable under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act.

  • Q10. I need to address financial issues (for example child or spousal support) but I feel unsafe. What should I do?

    A10. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or your local police.

    Also, if you are registered with a Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) or plan to register with a MEP, you should let them know if there are safety issues. They will take this into account when making decisions about how to enforce support.

    Family violence occurs when a person abuses someone in their family. It can happen to anyone - both children and adults.

    Family violence can be words, acts or even not giving someone the care they need. It may be a single incident, or a recurring pattern of behaviour.

    Family violence can also happen before, during or after a couple separates. People are often at higher risk of family violence soon after a separation.

    Many people and organizations can help you if you are dealing with family violence. For example, you can talk to a lawyer, doctor, social worker, or counsellor. You can also get help from victim services, community organizations, support groups, police, help lines, shelters or transition houses near you.

    For more information about family violence and getting help, please see these resources on the Department of Justice Canada website:

  • Q11. The Government of Canada is providing a one-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, with an additional $200 for seniors eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Is this payment garnishable for family support obligations?

    A11. This one-time payment for seniors is not garnishable for family support obligations. It is not income replacement. It is a one-time tax-free payment designed to help seniors with the additional costs of dealing with the COVID-19 situation. For example, these costs could include the delivery of groceries and medications or purchase of personal protective equipment.

  • Q12. Starting September 27, 2020, the Government of Canada announced there would be a transition from payment of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to a flexible and more accessible Employment Insurance (EI) program. Will the EI monies paid to people who previously received the CERB be garnished to satisfy family support obligations?

    A12. Yes, Employment Insurance monies, including monies paid under new EI rules, can be garnished to satisfy family support obligations.

  • Q13. In the context of COVID-19, will the new income support benefits (the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit) be garnished to satisfy family support obligations?

    A13. No, these new income support benefits cannot be garnished to satisfy family support obligations. They are unique and time-limited.

    The Canada Recovery Benefit is for individuals who are not employed or self-employed, or who had a reduction of at least 50% in their average weekly employment income or self-employment income for reasons related to COVID-19 and are not entitled to EI.

    The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is for employees who have been unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have otherwise worked or for self-employed persons who reduced the time they work by at least 50% because they:

    • contracted or might have contracted COVID-19, they have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sickness that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them susceptible to COVID-19;
    • isolated themselves on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19.

    The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit is for employees who have been unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have otherwise worked or for self-employed persons who have reduced the time they work by at least 50% because:

    • they care for a child under 12 years of age because:
      • the school or other facility that the child normally attended was, for reasons related to COVID-19, closed, open only at certain times or for certain children;
      • the child could not attend because they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19;
      • the child was in isolation on the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19; or
      • the child would, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner be at risk of having serious health complications if the child contracted COVID-19;
    • they cared for a family member who requires supervised case because:
      • the day program or facility that the family member normally attends was, for reasons related to COVID-19, unavailable or closed or open only at certain times or available to only certain persons;
      • the family member contracted or might have contracted COVID-19;
      • the family member was in isolation on the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19; or
      • the family member would, in the opinion of a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner be at risk of having serious health complications if the child contracted COVID-19.

    For more information on these new income support benefits, please visit Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for more information.

  • Q14. The Government of Canada is providing a one-time tax-free payment up to $600 to persons with disabilities. Is this payment garnishable for family support obligations?

    A14. No. This one-time payment to persons with disabilities is not garnishable for family support obligations. It is not an income replacement. It is a one-time, non-taxable payment of up to $600 to persons with disabilities to address extraordinary expenses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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