Loss of Revenue While Making Support Payments: What to Do?

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Many people who have lost their job during the pandemic rely upon the CERB, which is about to end. For many, this will mean that they will have difficulty making support payments, whether for an ex-spouse or for a child. Is it possible to modify support payments when you can no longer afford them?

Be careful of support payment debt

If you’re making court-ordered support payments and you have lost your job, you cannot simply stop making payments. If you do, you run the risk of accumulating debt, called “arrears”. Revenue Quebec has several tools to recover this debt. For example, they could seize your tax refund or take money from your bank account.  

How to modify the amount of the support payments

A significant change in your life could be used to justify a change in the amount of your support payments. This could happen if you lose your job or if your income drops, such as if you will no longer receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). There are several ways to request a modification of your support payments.

Without going to the court

You don’t have to go to court to modify your support payments. Here are three ways you can do it quickly without having to go to court.

The Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) lets you modify your support payments for a small fee if you can agree with your ex. You must make an appoint with your region’s legal aid office even if you are not eligible for legal aid.

The Service administrative de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (SARPA or child support adjustment service) allows you to modify your support payments online here. As of July 3rd, 2020, making a request through SARPA costs $50. You must meet certain conditions to qualify to use SARPA.

Family mediation can also help you reach an agreement with your ex to avoid going to court. You may even be eligible for several hours of free mediation.

Applying to the court

In certain cases, you must apply to the court to modify your support payments. For example, if you cannot agree with your ex and you do not qualify for SARPA. You can hire a lawyer or represent yourself. Depending on your income, you may qualify for legal aid. This means that the lawyer would represent you for free, or at a reduced rate.