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The Importance of Annual Reviews

If you have entered into a separation agreement or court order (including a Divorce Judgment) that deals with child support, it may be time to pull it out, dust it off and review the language. Most family law lawyers will encourage you review the terms on an annual basis as all agreements or orders will likely contain a clause that requires you to review annually.

An annual review will traditionally require the exchange of financial disclosure. In fact, a Divorce Judgment filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta dealing with support will contain a mandatory clause on the exchange of financial information. This will include updated tax returns, notices of assessment and other financial information in order to determine each parents income from the previous year. The ‘guideline income’ will help set the appropriate amount of child support to be paid pursuant to the Federal Child Support Guidelines. 

We know, we have been there – this is a lot of work! Why not let sleeping dogs lie? You worked hard to negotiate this agreement or order and it is not always fun to revisit these potentially contentious issues.

The reason to revisit is because:

  1. It is in the best interest of your child or children to ensure they have access to comparable standards of living in both homes; and
  2. By doing an annual review, you are minimizing the risk to yourself of a potentially large retroactive support claim.

In the case of  D.B.S. v S.R.G. the Supreme Court of Canada was very clear: they mandated that child support is the right of the child. Parents are not usually entitled to contract out of or avoid that right.   Failure to do an annual review of child support and to update the amount of support owing does not mean that it cannot be collected in the future.  Delaying a review of child support can result in complications, legal expenses and financial difficulties for parents who are looking to collect and for parents who are potentially owing retroactive support.

In the coming months, our blog will be about the Alberta Recalculation Program, a tool that may assist parents with their annual review.

In the interim, if you have concerns with regard to your review of child support, the requirement of exchanging financial disclosure, or a potential retroactive support claim, please reach out to one of our lawyers who would be pleased to assist.