The time is overdue for the Ontario Liberal government to divert child support payments from the tax coffers to the pockets of custodial parents receiving social assistance.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published June 17, 2015
The Ontario government launched a new five year Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2014. Within this mandate, the Liberals committed to break the cycle of poverty [PDF] for children and youth by choosing to investment tax dollars in education, public health and our communities.
However, there's a simple policy change that would have immediate impact for some of the most impoverished children in this province; let custodial parents receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits keep 100 percent of their court-ordered child support payments.
Under the current legislation, a single parent living on social assistance who's entitled to child support payments will never see a penny of the money. ODSP claws back the equivalent of the court-ordered child support from benefit payments.
A custodial parent supporting one child on ODSP benefits has an annual income of $19,380. The poverty line for a working poor parent and child is $27,000 per year. That means lone parents on social assistance are living 29 percent below the poverty line.
Allowing parents on ODSP to keep the full amount of their court-ordered child support payments just makes sense.
If both parents receive ODSP benefits, the situation is even more appalling. Child support is deducted from the payor's monthly ODSP cheque, as per the court order, and then the money is clawed back from the parent who should receive the child support.
Not only does the custodial parent lose in this situation, but the payor has less money for living expenses as well as additional expenses when they have weekend or extended holiday visits with their children.
I've advocated that 100 percent of child support be given to the custodial parent and none of it clawed back. This money would go a long way to helping parents raise their children out of extreme poverty.
In the case of gendered violence, this extra income could keep women from returning to abusive relationships when they find that they can't afford suitable housing or adequately feed their children. Both of these are very real reasons women stay in, or return to, abusive relationships.
British Columbia also clawed back child support payments from custodial parents receiving social assistance. But, as of September 1, 2015 the B.C. Liberal government will discontinue this policy, thereby allowing children to benefit from court-ordered financial contributions made by non-custodial parents.
The B.C. government has an agency called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) that collects monthly child support payments from payors.
The FMEP has a couple of conditions that they adhere to: they will not pursue child support payments from a payor whose annual income is $10,280 or less; nor will they assist custodial parents if the payor is receiving social assistance.
Regardless, as of September 1, 2015 the FMEP will ensure that 100 percent of the child support payments collected will be disbursed to custodial parents on social assistance.
In Ontario, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) enforces court-ordered child support payments. This agency is the equivalent to the FMEP in B.C. So, everything is in place for this change to ODSP policy to be seamlessly implemented.
The time is overdue for the Ontario Liberal government to divert child support payments from the tax coffers to the pockets of custodial parents receiving social assistance. Now that would be a positive game changer for Ontario children and youth.
By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted June 17, 2015 at 13:36:08
Back in the 1990's, Bob Rae's government attempted something similar to what is recommended here. If I remember the numbers correctly, welfare payments for single parents nearly doubled and increased for additional children. Teen pregnancies skyrocketed. Young women left their parents' homes before finishing their education. Legal Aid was nearly bankrupted as young mothers were required to seek support from fathers who had no ability to pay (children suing children.) Nominal support orders exploded and the new statistics supported a dramatic rise in "dead beat dads" when in fact a fiction had been created.
By Rob Bae (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2015 at 14:13:27 in reply to Comment 112317
What is this fearmongering? Citation definitely needed.
By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted June 17, 2015 at 14:44:32 in reply to Comment 112319
I will see if I can find the data, but ask any lawyer who practiced Family Law at the time and they will tell you that a welfare recipient was required to bring an application for support whether there was any hope of collecting or not. They will also confirm that this nearly bankrupted Legal Aid. As to the history of FRO you can find that online but I will see if I can get that as well.
By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted June 18, 2015 at 09:35:33 in reply to Comment 112323
Welfare use in Ontario shot up from just about 6% before Bob Rae to just under 12% at its peak usage in 1994. I can get you the specific stats from Statscan if you want but it is archived. That usage dropped dramatically thereafter.
To break down what I was saying you can look at 1993 to 2003 stats showing that Ontario was the only province that showed such a significant increase in welfare usage during that time period.
It may just be coincidence, but this occured when Ontario alone significantly increased the benefits particularly to people with dependent children.
I will also get you that stats that showed a significant increase in children born to unwed mothers during this same period.
The fact that the Ontario Government had to take over Legal Aid in 1997 as a consequence of its inability to fund itself is well known.
I do not know how to get the data on court usage in family courts at that time, but again it is well known that the Family Court crisis started at the same time and has not averted since to the point where now self-represented people now make up the majority of cases in the Family Courts.
I am not saying that children don't need the money. I am saying be wary of the social consequences.
For example, why should a child whose parent is on welfare and can receive support have more money than a child whose parent cannot receive support? Would it not be better to set a minimum financial benefit for the child leaving it up to the province to collect from the delinquent payer? That is what we do now save and accept that the benefits available for children are too low.
Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-06-18 09:37:09
By Rob Bae (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2015 at 09:52:10 in reply to Comment 112336
"fare use in Ontario shot up from just about 6% before Bob Rae to just under 12% at its peak usage in 1994"
Well gosh, that wouldn't have anything to do with the MAJOR INTERNATIONAL RECESSION that hit the economy in 1991. Let's blame child support instead.
By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted June 18, 2015 at 13:01:54 in reply to Comment 112338
It would have had that been reflected in every other province. But it wasn't. Look at the data province by province. Ontario was miles ahead of the other provinces. It only shot up that much in Ontario. Also, those numbers are not reflected in 2008 when there was arguably a worse recession or in 1999 when in fact welfare use continued to drop.
It wasn't child support that was to blame. I think you misunderstand me. The government forced women to chase fathers who had no ability to pay. Many of these were kids. There were nominal support orders that only drove up the statistics and did nothing to alleviate the dire circumstances of the children.
By fmurray (registered) | Posted June 17, 2015 at 13:51:28
I agree with this wholeheartedly. Personally, I had no idea the situation exists. What is the point of the non-custodial parent paying child support when the money does not go to the support of the child? Utterly ridiculous. Keeping parent and child below the poverty line for what end?
And Charles Ball, it takes two people to make a baby. What do you suggest in a situation where one parent doesn't step up to their share of the responbility?
By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted June 17, 2015 at 14:40:18 in reply to Comment 112318
Where one parent does not step up they should be forced to step up.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 18, 2015 at 22:54:50
I will just briefly weigh in here as a professional Accountant. Doreen's proposal will result in some very wealthy people receiving ODSP benefits.
Millionaires also have children and get divorced. Suppose, for example, that someone with an income of $1,000,000 per year is paying child support for three children. I see from the government's child support tables that in Ontario, the custodial parent would be receiving child support payments of $14,851 per month or $178,212 per year. If the custodial parent had no other income, Doreen's proposal would have that person also receiving ODSP benefits.
I've advocated that 100 percent of child support be given to the custodial parent and none of it clawed back.
I would suggest that perhaps there should be some upper limit of child support payments over which ODSP would be clawed back.
Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-06-18 23:03:55
By root of the matter (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2015 at 01:44:21
Why are you complicating the matter? The problem is not about child support and how much is kept it's the plain and simple fact that welfare is too low to allow anything even close to life at the poverty line. What you need is a way to convince the majority of Canadians or at least Ontarions to pay more taxes to support those who cannot or will not work. There is very little appetite in most of the working class to pay more in taxes to increase the living standards for those on welfare.
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