Can You Avoid Paying Child Support by Quitting Work?

The question of how much child support one parent has to pay the other in connection with the child of the marriage will be determined by numerous factors, including the child’s needs, and the income of both parties.   Yet a parent for whom the support obligation seems fiscally burdensome may be tempted to quit work or deliberately reduce his or her income, in a bid to have that support obligation eliminated or minimized. 

Under Canadian law, however, this tactic will simply not work – Child support obligations cannot be deliberately avoided in this manner.

This is because the federal Child Support Guidelines allow a court to “impute” income to a parent in appropriate circumstances; this essentially means a court will make a “best guess” at the parent’s income in certain defined situations.   These include (among others) situations where:  

  • the parent is intentionally under-employed or unemployed (except where his or her employment situation is required by the child’s needs or by the parent’s reasonable educational or health needs);
  • it appears that income has been diverted which would affect the level of Guideline child support;
  • the parent is failing to reasonably use his or her property to generate income;
  • the parent has failed to provide income information despite being  under a legal obligation to do so; or
  • the parent has made unreasonable deductions from income for expenses.

In plain language:  a court will often have to impute a parent’s income where he or she has not been completely forthcoming about his or her income-levels or sources (i.e. has been hiding income), or where the parent has unreasonably failed to take suitable work, has stopped looking for work despite being unemployed, has quit a job for no good reason, or has taken a lower-paying job than what would be commensurate to his or her level of experience and education.    All of these scenarios allow a court to estimate income and order support to be paid accordingly.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide tailored, practical advice and effective representation in connection with responsibility for child support.  Contact us to set up a free consultation.

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