When you apply for social assistance (welfare), the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale (department of employment and social solidarity or MTESS) is likely to ask you to apply for child support, if you have children. A legal aid lawyer can help you with this, free of charge.
Applying for child support: usually a condition for receiving social assistance
Social assistance is considered last-resort financial assistance. This means that people who apply for it must also apply for any other type of financial support available to them.
People who are separated and who have one or more dependent children can ask the other parent for child support. Generally, they must apply for child support in order to be eligible for social assistance. They might have to apply even if the other parent isn’t involved in the children’s lives.
If you’re required to apply for child support, the agent assigned to your social assistance file will inform you of this when you submit your social assistance application.
Applying for child support through legal aid
To apply for child support, you must call the legal aid office which serves your district to make an appointment. A legal aid lawyer can help you apply for child support free of charge.
You’ll need to bring these documents to your legal aid appointment:
- copies of your children’s birth certificates,
- other parent’s home address,
- address of other parent’s place of work.
If you’re married, you’ll also have to provide the following:
- copy of your marriage certificate or of the copy of the act of marriage,
- copy of your birth certificate or of your copy of the act of birth,
- copy of your spouse’s birth certificate or of their copy of the act of birth.
If you don’t know the other parent’s address, the legal aid lawyer can hire a tracing agency to locate them. You must provide your lawyer with as much information as possible about the other parent (such as their telephone number, last known address and date of birth, etc.).
The legal process
After your appointment, the legal aid lawyer will prepare an application to be presented in court. If you aren’t married, the lawyer will draw up an application for custody and child support. If you’re married, the lawyer could also prepare an application for divorce, if you wish.
Once the documents are ready, you must return to the legal aid office to sign them. The lawyer will explain that you’ll eventually have to go to court for the hearing. The lawyer will inform you of the time and date, when they are known, and will provide you with the address of the courthouse. The lawyer will also send copies of the legal documents to the other parent by bailiff.
Child support in addition to social assistance
The result of these legal procedures should be a judgment ordering the other parent to pay you child support. You can receive child support payments, up to a certain limit, without a reduction in your social assistance.
If you receive child support payments of less than $350/month for each dependent child, there will be no impact on your social assistance payments. In other words, you’ll receive the full amount of your social assistance payments in addition to the child support payments.
But if you receive child support payments of more than $350/month for each dependent child, the amount of your social assistance will be reduced, dollar for dollar, by the amount of child support exceeding $350 per child. For example, if you have one child and you receive $450/month in child support, your social assistance will be reduced by $100/month ($450- $350).
Even if you apply for child support, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive it. For example, if the other parent receives social assistance, you might not obtain child support payments. But the MTESS could still require you to apply for support payments to be eligible for social assistance.