Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What if we don’t agree on the amount of child support?

If you cannot come to an agreement on your own, the following services may be able to help you:

  • Family Justice Counsellors (free)
  • Child Support Officers (free)
  • Outreach Legal Aid Clinic
  • Parenting After Separation Program (free)
  • Mediation (free and for a fee)
  • Collaborative family law services (for a fee)
  • Legal Aid Commission

If even after trying these services you still can’t reach an agreement, you will have to go to court.

Outreach Legal Aid Clinic

Each client is offered summary legal advice and/or legal information to assist them in their legal matters.

The OLAC lawyer provides general legal advice in the following areas of law:

  • Family Law
  • Child Protection Matters (takes precedence over all other matters)
  • Residential Tenancy Rights
  • Wills and Estates (Probate of estates under $35,000)

The staff at OLAC may provide legal information in regards to various legal issues which clients are facing. The following are examples of legal information:

  • Assisting clients in filling out legal forms
  • Reviewing these forms with the client
  • Providing clients with the resources they need to assist them with their legal issue
  • Commissioner of Oath/Notary Public services

The OLAC offers two walk-in clinics:one on Tuesdays from 1:30 pm until 4:00 pm, and the other on Wednesdays from 1:30 pm until 4:00 pm.

No appointments are necessary for this clinic but it is advisable to contact the clinic in advance to confirm that the clinic is open. Shortage of staff or lawyer travel may affect clinic scheduling. Telephone appointments are available outside of the walk-in clinic hours. Telephone call appointments are encouraged for those who cannot attend the walk-in clinic due to distance, and for those with children and experience difficulty finding child care.

Parenting After Separation Program

The Northwest Territories Parenting After Separation workshop is a free, half-day session for  parents who are dealing with issues related to separation or divorce. The workshop  can help make the transition through separation or divorce easier for both parents and children. The focus is to makeconsider  the best interests of their children when making decisions.  Participants will learn about:

  • The legal process and legal issues, such as custody, access and child support;
  • Options to resolve family law disputes such as mediation, negotiation by lawyers or Court;
  • The impact of separation on you and your children;
  • How to communicate well with your children and ex-partner’
  • How to manage high-conflict situation;
  • The benefits of developing a parenting plan;
  • How to plan for your new situation; and
  • Introducing a new partner.

In some situations, you may have to prove to the court that you have taken the workshop before you can apply for court orders.


In mediation, you and the other parent will work with someone who is specially trained to help you reach an agreement. A mediator will not make decisions for you, but can help you and the other parent communicate with each other about all of the issues involved in your separation. Both parents also have to agree to mediation for it to work.

A mediator will:

  • Provide a neutral place for you and the other parent to meet
  • Help define the issues you need to resolve
  • Keep the discussions on track
  • Help you maintain a working relationship with the other parent

Mediation gives you more control over decisions that are made and it allows for more creative and flexible arrangements that can suit your particular circumstances. If you go to court, the judge will make the decisions for you.

People who use mediation are usually more satisfied with the outcome than those who don’t. This means they are more likely to follow the terms of the agreement.

It is informal and private. While a lawyer can attend mediation with you, there is usually no one else there but you, the other parent, and the mediator. No one else has to know the details of your agreement.

The Family law mediation program is a free, voluntary service (up to 9 hours) that is offered to residents of the Northwest Territories.  If you make any decisions through this program, the mediator will create a memorandum of understanding (MOU).  It is important that you take this document to a lawyer who can provide you with legal advice and can help formalize the MOU into a legally binding document. To find out if mediation is right for you, contact the NWT Family Law Mediation Program

You may also choose to hire a private mediator to help resolve issues, however they will charge a fee. To find a private mediator you can view the NWT Law Society website or look in the yellow pages.

If you have to go to court

It is a lot less stressful if parents can work out a child support agreement on their own, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes court is the only available option to ensure that children get the financial support they need when their parents separate. Parents can apply for a child support order in Supreme Court.

Note: There is a Supreme Court practice direction requiring that in some situations parents are required to prove that they have taken a In a number of communities throughout BCNWT, you have to do a Parenting After Separation (PAS) workshop before they can apply for court order in their case.

The paying parent will be required by the court to provide proof of their present income, together with their recent income tax returns, and other financial documents that may be important. In most cases, such as when the parents are paying for special or extraordinary expenses, or when the parenting arrangement is shared, the receiving parent will also be required to provide financial documents.

The judge will make a child support order based on the Child Support Guidelines. The judge will make a decision about how much child support should be paid, who should pay it, and how often. Parents have to obey court orders.

It is a good idea to get legal advice before going to court. You may want to contact a lawyer, apply for Legal Aid or contact the Outreach Legal Aid Clinic before going to court.

What if a parent doesn’t pay child support?

The Northwest Territories Maintenance Enforcement Program is a service established by the territorial government to help parents receive their child and spousal support payments. “Maintenance” is another term used to describe support.

If you enroll into the program, staff at the Maintenance Enforcement Program will monitor your child support order and enforce it if payments are late or unpaid. Maintenance Enforcement Program staff will contact the non-paying parent and arrange for payment to be made. There is no cost to enroll and there is no time limit when a parent can file their child support agreement or order.

Some parents enroll in the program because it is easier to have Maintenance Enforcement Program collect payments than it is to do it themselves. When necessary, however, Maintenance Enforcement Program has the power to take wages, withhold the non-paying parent’s passport or drivers licence, make financial agreements that can’t be broken (“binding” agreements), and take other legal action to get payments on behalf of the children.

It is better to pay child support when your children need it. If parents don’t pay child support and get behind in their payments (are “in arrears”), their bank accounts and federal payments that are due such as Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan benefits can also be taken (“garnished”) to pay the debt.