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May 14, 2018
Services: Family Law

Child Support Obligations & Self-Reduced Income

Separated parents have an obligation to financially support their children. Parents cannot avoid that obligation by a self-induced reduction of income.

Under section 19(1)(a) of the Child Support Guidelines, when making an Order for child support, a court may impute such amount of income to a parent where the parent is intentionally under-employed or unemployed, other than where the under-employment or unemployment is required by the needs of a child or by the reasonable educational or health needs of the parent.

The Ontario Court of Appeal in Drygala v. Pauli, set out the following three questions to be answered when a court is considering a request to impute income:

  1. Is the parent intentionally under-employed or unemployed?
  2. If so, is the intentional under-employment or unemployment required by virtue of his or her reasonable educational needs?
  3. If not, what income is appropriately imputed?

When imputing income based on intentional under-employment, a court must consider what is reasonable in the circumstances. In past cases, the factors considered were age; education; experience; skills; health; available employment opportunities; the number of hours that could be worked in light of the parent's overall obligations; the hourly rate that the parent could reasonably be expected to earn; and the standard of living during the parties’ relationship. The onus is on the parent seeking to impute income to establish that the other parent is intentionally under-employed.

Even when a parent is pursuing an educational program, the court will consider the amount of income the parent could earn if he or she worked to capacity. The parent’s choice of educational program will also be considered. A payor parent will not be excused from his or her support obligations in the pursuit of unrealistic career aspirations.

If the payor parent does not provide the court with adequate information about the types of jobs available, the hourly rates for such jobs and the number of hours that could be worked, the court can consider the parent's previous earning history. In the absence of evidence of past income, the court may impute a minimum wage income to the payor parent.

If you are a separated parent, it is a good idea to consult a family law lawyer for advice about your child support entitlement and obligations. At SV Law, we have a team of skilled family law lawyers who will strive to provide you with the best and most cost-effective legal representation possible.


  1. SOR/97-175, s 19(1)(a).
  2. Drygala v Pauli, (2002) 61 OR (3d) 711 (Ont CA) [Drygala].
  3. Ibid at para 23.
  4. Ibid at para 45; Gobin v Gobin, 2009 ONCJ 245 at para 22, (OCJ) [Gobin].
  5. Ffrench v Williams, 2016 ONCJ 105 at para 39, (OCJ). See also Homsi v Zaya, 2009 ONCA 322 at para 28, (Ont CA).  
  6. Drygala, supra note 2 at para 46; Gobin, supra note 4 at para 22.
  7. Gobin, supra note 4 at para 15.
  8. Drygala, supra note 2 at para 46.
  9. See Deslandes v Chen, 2017 ONSC 941 at para 3, (Ont SCJ); Van Heighten v Catarino, 2017 ONCJ 103 at para 113, (OCJ); Hutchison v Gretzinger, 2007 CanLII 57089 at para 24, (Ont SCJ).

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Kaitlyn Armstrong

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and is not legal advice. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstance.