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It was just announced by the Department of Justice that effective December 31, 2011; changes will be made to the Federal Child Support Guideline Tables as a result of amendments to the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

The impetus for the change is the Government of Canada’s mandate to review the Federal Tables at least once every five years. They left it to the eleventh hour, but hopefully the changes will have a positive effect.

The basic formula used to calculate child support has not been altered, so the amendments do not represent a fundamental change. At first glance, I can report that some of the table amounts will increase as a result of the amendments, while some others will decrease. The changes to the quantum of support depend, not surprisingly, on the Province (as a result of a variance in taxation between territories), the paying spouse’s income, and the number of children entitled to support.

The changes made will also affect spousal support calculations using the “with child support” and “custodial payor” formulae in Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. Keep in mind that any child support payments owed up to December 31, 2011, should be calculated based on the Federal Tables of 2006.

What is particularly important to anybody who is already paying or receiving child support is that the amendments DO NOT automatically change the child support amounts set out in any existing Order or Agreement.

However, there are ways to update an Order or Agreement to reflect the numbers in the new Tables. Agreements between the paying spouse and the recipient spouse can be re-negotiated, though this may not be so simple, depending on the significance of the increase/decrease in support and the financial circumstances of the parties. Applications could also be made in an effort to change a previous Court Order.

Most Agreements that address child support include clauses that require the parties to revisit the calculation on an annual basis. Once the new Table amounts are implemented, a spouse looking to get the quantum of child support changed can cite their annual review clause as a reason to amend the Agreement to reflect the newly prescribed amounts. Therefore, even if you drafted an Agreement based on the old Table amounts, there is likely something built in to your Agreement that properly prepares you for legislative change of this nature.