In certain rare cases, a parent may legally pay a different amount of support than what the Child Support Guidelines require. For example, when the paying parent faces extreme difficulties that make it hard to pay, called “undue” hardship, or when a child becomes independent. These exceptions are explained below.
In some situations, a parent might find they cannot afford to pay the amount required by the Child Support Guidelines. If this is the case, the paying parent must prove that the child support payments would cause “undue hardship.” Undue hardship means the required payments would cause a very big financial problem — not just hardship, but undue hardship.
It is not easy to claim undue hardship. You will have to go to court to do it and a judge will ask you to provide a lot of financial documents. The judge will compare the standard of living of your household and the other parent’s household, including the incomes of any new spouses. If you have a higher standard of living than the other parent’s household you cannot get a reduction in child support payments. Before you go to court to claim undue hardship, it is a good idea to talk to a Family Justice Counsellor.
Child support is generally required until a child turns 19 (the age of majority in BC), which is the age that they should be able to live on their own and take care of themselves. This is the case except when a child over 19 is still a dependent, like if they are still going to school full-time or have an illness or disability. But independence can occur before a child turns 19, and in these cases, a parent may not be required to pay support.
If a paying parent can prove that a child under 19 (a minor) has voluntarily left parental control and is living a financially independent life as an adult, the child may not be entitled to benefit from child support.
Children are considered independent of their parents’ care and control when:
If you have any questions about child support and independent children, talk to a Family Justice Counsellor.
A step-parent may have a responsibility to pay child support even if they no longer live with the other parent. If you have questions about a step-parent’s duty to pay child support, talk to a Family Justice Counsellor. There are time limits for getting child support from a step-parent, so if this is your situation, you should contact a Family Justice Counsellor right away.
British Columbia has arrangements with other provinces and some countries so that a parent can apply for child support or apply to make changes to child support even if the other parent lives in a different province or country.
These arrangements make it possible to do this without having to go there. Depending on where the other parent moved, it may be possible to get what’s called an interjurisdictional support order. See the Interjurisdictional Support Orders (ISO) website for more information and forms.