If your financial situation has changed, you can modify the amount of child support payments set by a court judgment. For example, a new job or a change in custody arrangements may justify an increase or a decrease in the amount of child support you are paying or receiving. In some cases, you can have child support payments modified without going to court, and at little or no cost.
Situations where child support payments can be modified
You can ask for child support payments to be modified if there’s been a major change in your life, in the other parent’s life or in the child’s life since the judgment that set the amount of the support payments. But not all changes will lead to a modification because the change must be important.
Here are a few examples of changes that could be sufficiently important:
- You lost your job, or your income has decreased.
- The custody of a child has changed.
- An adult child has finished school and is now working.
- The income of the other parent has increased
Important! Even if you are in one of these situations you can’t simply stop making support payments without following the proper procedures to have the judgment modified. Otherwise, any missed payments will become a debt that you owe.
Modifying support payments without going to court
In some situations, mediation services and the HAS and SARPA services (described below) make it possible to have support payments modified quickly and at little or no cost.
Mediation with the other parent
Mediation could help you to reach an agreement with the other parent. You may be eligible for a few hours of free mediation. If you do reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a document setting out the points on which you have agreed. If you have agreed on everything, the mediator can file all necessary documents in court, and you will not have to go to court.
For more information see: Family Mediation: Reaching an Agreement Without Going to Court
Homologation Assistance Service (HAS)
If the other parent agrees to modify the support payments, you can change them using the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) at little or no cost. To use this service, you must make an appointment with a lawyer from the legal aid office serving your area. You can use the HAS service even if you are not eligible for legal aide.
For more information see: Changing Child Custody or Child Support Payments at Little Cost
You can also use the Service administrative de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (child support adjustment service or SARPA) to modify support payments without going to court. The SARPA service modifies the amount of support to be paid, without having to go to court to modify the judgment that set the support payments. In some cases, you can use SARPA even if you can’t reach an agreement with the other parent about changing the support payments.
For more information see: Changing Child Support Using the SARPA Service
Going to court to modify support payments
If you can’t reach an agreement with the other parent, then you must generally go to court and ask a judge to change the amount of the payments. A lawyer can do this for you, or you could represent yourself in court. You could also apply to legal aid to see if you qualify for free or low-cost legal services.
Hiring a lawyer
If you have the financial means to do so, you can hire a lawyer to request a change in support payments. The lawyer will draft the legal procedures and represent you in court. Lawyers generally charge by the hour (for example, $150 per hour) and fees differ considerably between lawyers. You can contact several lawyers to inquire about their fees before hiring one to represent you.
To find a lawyer in your region who specializes in family law, you can use the Barreau du Québec’s online referral service.
Representing yourself in court
You can also file an application in court on your own. However, legal procedures are complicated, and it could take lots of time and energy to understand the process and draft the required documents. If you decide to go this route, these guides could help you:
- Guide: Changing a Judgment (Common-Law Couples) if you were never married to the other parent
- Guide: Making Changes to a Divorce Judgment if you are divorced from the other parent
For more information see the guide : Seul devant la cour en matière familiale in French only).
Are you elegible for legal aid?
Legal aid provides low income people with the services of a lawyer for free or at a low cost. Eligibility for legal aid depends on several factors, in particular your income and assets.