When a marriage end between parents, there is often a huge sense of relief that matters have finally come to a close – especially if it has been a long, arduous, and acrimonious process. Both parents are eager to move on and start fresh, even if they haven’t sorted everything out. One key issue that may not have been adequately addressed is child support.
If you are the parent with custody of the children, you may dive immediately into a fiscal-management role, taking on the full burden of the financial responsibility for the children – without giving much thought as to what is legal, fair, or right.
You may reassure yourself that you will recover support from the other parent later on … then months or years go by.
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Meanwhile, the other (access-only) parent may not have given much thought to how or whether the financial needs of the children are being met. Or, he or she might not be in a hurry to bring it up, since it is neither to their advantage, nor technically their obligation, to remind you that you are owed some child support in the circumstances.
If you have not been prompt in seeking child support from the other parent, you may be wondering:
When is it too late?
How Do I Know if I Can Still Get Support for My Child?
Assuming your child is under the age of 18 (which is often, but not always the cut-off for child support entitlement, absent other factors), you may be wondering how to figure out whether you can still get child support if you haven’t claimed it previously.
This can be a complex question, and it depends primarily on the type of support you are looking for:
- Is it a new request for support going forward into the future, under Family Law Act entitlements, or a request to enforce the terms of an agreement or contract?
- Is it a request for support arrears, under an existing contract or order, that should have been paid to you, but never was?
- Is it a request for retroactive support, that should have been paid in the past, but you never requested it?
Each of these will have different answers, and each of them will hinge on the particular facts of your case.
What if My Child is Already 18?
If your child is already 18 years old, then you will have more of an uphill battle than otherwise – but it’s not impossible. A court can still order support for your adult child in some circumstances, usually where to the child is pursuing a course of full-time post-secondary education and is still dependent on you and the other parent.
Not surprisingly, the court will look at all the circumstances to determine whether the support entitlement should be extended into your child’s adult years. There is never a clear “yes” or “no” after your child turns 18.
The Longer You Wait, the More Prejudicial it is For You
Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you are the parent who is entitled to receive child support, then immediately after separation you should take prompt steps to claim it from the other parent. Otherwise, your child will be needlessly stripped of the benefit of your being able to spend those funds on his or her care in the short-term. And if significant arrears accumulate, the other parent may have difficulty making the total payment, and might convince a court to reduce the support amount in recognition of the hardship.