Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

You are here

Are there exceptions to how much a parent has to pay?

In certain cases, a parent may pay a different amount of support than what the Child Support Tables 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.

“Undue hardship”

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.

Independent children

Child support is generally required until a child turns 19 (the age of majority in the NWT), 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:

  • The child lives with a boyfriend or girlfriend who provides for or helps to provide for their needs
  • The child has moved out from his or her parents’ home and refuses to return
  • The child lives on his or her own, maintains a job and pays his or her own bills without relying on money from his or her parents

If you have any questions about child support and independent children, talk to the Outreach Legal Aid Clinic.

Do step-parents have to pay child support?

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 the Outreach Legal Aid Clinics. 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.

What if the other parent doesn’t live in the same province or country?

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act allows the Maintenance Enforcement Program to have other jurisdictions enforce child and spousal support orders issued in the Northwest Territories. Northwest Territories has reciprocity agreements with arrangements with all Canadian provinces and territories, all US states and some countries. This means that you can apply for an interjurisdictional support order or change an existing order in a reciprocating jurisdiction without having to go there.