Fact Sheet - Income Disclosure for Child Support Purposes

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Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially after separation or divorce. Children have a legal right to that support.

Under the Federal Child Support GuidelinesFootnote 1 (Federal Guidelines) parents need to provide complete and up-to-date income information to ensure a fair amount of support.

This Fact Sheet provides general information about:

  • who needs to provide income information and when they need to provide it;
  • what income information they need to provide; and
  • what happens when the information is not provided.
Who needs to provide income information and when do they need to provide it? 

There are two types of income disclosure obligations: initial and ongoing (continuing).

1. Initial disclosure obligation

To determine the initial child support amount, the Federal Guidelines require that one or both parents provide their complete income information for the last three tax years.Footnote 2

Both parents will need to provide their income information if: 

If none of these situations apply, only the parent who will be paying the child support amount is required to provide his or her income information (for example, if one of the parents has sole custody).

2. Continuing disclosure obligation after a child support order or agreement is made

To ensure that children receive fair support that is based on up-to-date income information, there is an obligation for parents to continue to provide income information after a child support order or agreement is made. This legal obligation comes from the law, court decisions, and/or administrative services (for example, a recalculation service Footnote3):

  • Federal Guidelines: The Federal Guidelines say that parents who had to provide their income information to establish child support have to provide updated income information not more than once a year if they receive a written request from the other parent. This means that the parent sending the request for updated income information has the right to that information and that the other parent must provide it.   
  • Changes in income: The Supreme Court of Canada said that parents must pay child support based on their most current income information.Footnote 4 Therefore, parents should keep each other informed of changes to their income.
  • Order or agreement: A child support order or agreement may require a parent to provide income information to the other parent at specified times or in specific situations.
  • Recalculation service: Parents may also be required to provide their income information if their child support order or agreement is registered with a “recalculation service”.
What type of income information do parents need to provide?

Complete and up-to-date income information must be provided and must include:

  • income tax returns for each of the three most recent tax years; and
  • notices of assessment and reassessment from the Canada Revenue Agency for each of the three most recent tax years.

A parent may also need to share other income information, such as:

  • the most recent statement of earnings or pay slip, or a letter from their employer stating their salary or wages;
  • financial statements if the parent is self-employed or controls a corporation;
  • information on income received from employment insurance, workers’ compensation, disability payments, and social or public assistance.
What if the parent does not provide the information?

By law, parents must provide their complete and up-to-date income information when required to do so. If a parent does not respect that obligation, the court can, for example:

  • order that the income be provided (disclosure order);
  • assume that the parent’s income is a certain amount for child support purposes and make an order based on that income (impute income);
  • order the parent to pay the child support owed all the way back to when the income changed (retroactive order); 
  • require a parent to pay the legal costs of the other parent;
  • find the parent in contempt of court, which can result in fines and/or imprisonment.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step publication found in the Family Law pages of the Department of Justice Canada website at http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/fl-lf/child-enfant/guide/index.html provides more information about child support issues.

Learn more about the free information about divorce and separation available from Justice Canada in this short video, or visit our website: Canada.ca/family-law

Disclaimer: This is not a legal text and does not provide legal advice. As family law can be complex, it is usually best for individuals to get advice about their situation from a family law lawyer. These lawyers are in the best position to give legal advice about rights and obligations. Most of the provincial and territorial bar associations offer Lawyer Referral Services. Some lawyers may give an initial consultation for free or at a reduced rate, or individuals may decide to consult a lawyer just a few times to help with certain aspects of their specific situation.

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