Support — child

Money paid by one parent or guardian to another parent or guardian as financial support for the children after separation.



Frequently asked questions

Can I get legal aid for my family law problem?

Legal aid in BC, provided by the Legal Services Society (LSS), can take one of three possible forms: legal representation, legal advice, or legal information.

If you are financially eligible, you may be able to get legal representation and most legal advice for free. The eligibility guidelines for legal advice and for legal representation are separate. Legal information (plus some kinds of legal advice) is free to all British Columbians. If you're reading this page, you've already received a form of legal aid.

To find out more about legal representation for family law problems and what's covered, see the Serious family problems or Child protection matters pages on the LSS website. If you don't qualify for legal representation, you may still be eligible for legal advice services.

To find out for sure whether your particular case qualifies for legal representation, go to your local legal aid office (or call the provincial LSS Call Centre) to apply.

How can I argue my case to get my former common-law partner to pay the amount of child support our children are entitled to? He left the relationship to "start over" and changed his job from full-time to part-time so he could go back to school to learn a new job and feel less stressed while studying.

The starting point in nearly all child support cases is the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The tables specify an amount according to the number of children and the gross annual income of the paying parent.

Even though your former spouse will argue that he should pay less as he's now earning less, a judge can base the child support he must pay on a higher salary amount even though the parent has chosen to earn less. (That is, a judge may "impute" income to a parent who's intentionally under-employed or unemployed.)

A judge won't always impute income to an under-earning parent if there are reasonable circumstances where the parent may need to reduce employment, such as for genuine health or educational reasons.

For more information about child support, see the fact sheet Child support, and the booklet Living Together or Living Apart: Common-Law Relationships, Marriage, Separation, and Divorce.

What financial help can I get to support my nephew who is living with me temporarily?

You may be able to take advantage of the Extended Family Program, which offers services and financial support to help relatives caring for children. You must meet certain eligibility criteria, and the amount of monthly benefit payments depends on the child's age. See our fact sheet Understanding the Extended Family Program for more information. Or see the Ministry of Children and Family Development website.

If your household meets the eligibility criteria, you may also be eligible for:

  • the Child Tax Benefit,
  • BC Family Bonus,
  • Universal Child Care Benefit, or
  • the Child Disability Benefit.

Apply for these as soon as possible. See the fact sheet Benefits for grandparents and other relatives raising children for links to information about these and other benefits and how to apply for them.

When can I stop paying child support? Is it when my child turns 19 or when she finishes college or university?

Children are entitled to be supported by their parents if they're under 19, or if they're 19 or over but unable to support themselves because of illness, disability, or some other reason, such as going to school full-time. So, in some circumstances, parents who are separated or divorced must financially support their children, even after those children become adults (at 19) and finish post-secondary education.

For more detailed information, see our fact sheet about when child support ends.

We've just separated, and we have two children, who live with my husband. How can I figure out how much child support I need to pay him?

Child support is based on the child support guidelines, a set of tables and clear rules that courts must use to set child support. For general information about child support and the child support guidelines, see our fact sheet Child support.

To find out the amount of child support you would be expected to pay under the guidelines, use the Child Support Online Lookup tool (effective after December 31, 2011) on the Department of Justice website. Enter your annual gross (before taxes) income and the number of children you have, and select which province or territory you live in, and then click "Lookup." The tool will calculate your monthly child support payment.

For more tips, see What the child support guidelines are and how they work.

Do I have to put the name of the other parent on my baby's birth certificate registration?

The birth certificate registration only contains information about the child's date and place of birth, and who his or her parents are. If you choose not to put the other parent's name on the birth certificate, that parent's legal relationship to the child is still the same, including his or her obligations to pay child support and his or her right to ask for guardianship, parenting time, parental responsibilities, contact with the child, custody, or access.

If you're deciding whether to put the other parent on the birth certificate registration, it's important to get legal advice based on your circumstances and legal needs. See Who can help? for more information about how to find a lawyer.

See the BC Vital Statistics website for more information on filling out the registration form for a birth certificate.

For more information, see the fact sheet Parenting apart.

What if we want to change a parenting or support order, but one of the parties no longer lives in British Columbia?

If you or your spouse doesn't live in BC, standard family law rules won't apply. If this is your situation, your case is more complicated, and you should see a lawyer to get some advice.

See Who can help? for how to find a lawyer. See also the fact sheet about interjurisdictional issues on this website. Or see the booklet Living Together or Living Apart: Common-Law Relationships, Marriage, Separation, and Divorce.

I'm six months pregnant and the father, my common-law partner for the past two and a half years, just left me. Can I take him to court for child support before the baby is born?

He says he's not going to pay me any child support. I'm not working now and I need money.

You can't start a legal action for child support before your child is born. But you can prepare a BC Provincial or Supreme Court child support application (that is, write/type up the forms) and have them ready to file. (Ask a friend or family member to go to the courthouse and file them for you as soon as the baby is born.)

To find links to the blank forms and find out how to prepare them, use our free online self-help guides on how to start a family law case in Supreme Court, and how to get an interim family order and final family order (if you can't agree with the other party).

Even though you can't apply for child support before the baby is born, you can apply for an order (in either BC Provincial or Supreme Court) for payment of "expenses arising from and incidental to" your prenatal and/or birth expenses according to section 170(f) of the BC Family Law Act, including loss of income related to the birth of the child.

I'm six months pregnant, but the father says it's not his baby and he won't pay child support until I can prove the child is his. Can I have a paternity test done before my baby is born?

Yes. There is a prenatal test available to help determine the paternity of your unborn child (approximate cost is about $1,000). For more information, see Non-Invasive DNA Paternity Testing in Canada and the USA on the Canadian Children's Rights Council website.

If the prenatal test confirms that he's the father, you can apply for an order (in either BC Provincial or Supreme Court) for payment of your prenatal and birth expenses, according to section 170(f) of the BC Family Law Act, and then start a child support action once the child is born. (See also our FAQ above about applying for child support before the baby is born.)

I’ve been paying child support but now our child lives with me full-time. How do I change the support order?

When a child’s living and parenting arrangements change, you can apply to change your court order and the support payments to reflect the changes. You can get help from a mediator or a lawyer or you can do it yourself.

If you both agree to change the order (for example, to switch someone from being a payor to being a recipient), use our self-help guide How to change a family order. If the other parent doesn’t agree, you can still apply to change it (usually in the same court that made the order). Use our guide for if you can’t agree with the other party. Note that if your order is registered with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, you must let them know of any changes. See their website for more information.

For mediation help, contact a family justice counsellor (a mediator, not a lawyer) or a child support officer. For other mediation resources, see our Mediators page.

Can child support end before a child turns 19?

Generally, children have the right to be supported by their parents if they're under 19 (the age of majority in BC). Child support can end before a child turns 19 if the child becomes a “spouse” or has “voluntarily withdrawn” from parental control and is living an adult, financially independent life. However, if a child leaves because of family violence or “intolerable circumstances,” they still have the right to get child support.

If there's disagreement about whether you have to pay child support, you can contact a family justice counsellor or see our Mediators page for other resources. If you still can’t resolve things and you need to apply for a court order, see our self-help guides under Family orders if you can’t agree.

See also our fact sheet about when child support ends.

Is my new partner responsible for paying child support for my children from a previous relationship? And does my new partner’s income affect child support calculations?

No, a new partner of a payor is not responsible for making support payments. Also, the income and assets of a new partner (of either a payor or a recipient) are generally not considered when calculating child support amounts — only a payor’s gross annual income is relevant as well as the number of children the payor and recipient have together. (See our child support fact sheet for information about child support guidelines.)

If a party makes a claim of undue hardship, each party’s “household income” is considered, which includes the incomes of new partners. However, it still doesn’t mean that a payor’s or recipient’s new partner becomes responsible for making child support payments. (See our child support fact sheet for more information about undue hardship.)

If a person’s new partner and the child’s parent separate, the new partner may have to pay child support if they're a “step-parent” (under the BC Family Law Act) to the children. See our fact sheet about step-parents’ responsibilities.

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