What is child support?

Parents have a legal responsibility to financially support their children, whether or not the parents ever lived together or the parent has ever lived with the child.

Child support is the amount a parent pays to another parent to help support the children.

The duty to pay child support generally continues until the child turns 19 years old. If a child is still dependent after they turn 19, then the right to financial support continues. For example, the child may have an illness or disability, or may still be in school or university.

Child support, although paid to the other parent, is the legal right of the child. A parent cannot make an agreement saying that the other parent does not have to pay their child support.

When one parent lives with the children most of the time, the other parent pays child support. If the children spend equal (or almost equal) time with both parents, then the parent who has the higher income pays child support to the other parent, usually at a reduced amount.

The parent who lives with the children most of the time is also responsible for contributing to the costs of raising the children. These costs are inter-related because the parent and the children live together. The other parent’s contribution of child support helps provide for the child’s daily needs, including housing, food, activities, school costs and clothes.

Although parents have the primary responsibility to pay child support, other guardians and step-parents may be responsible for paying child support. If you are a step-parent, and you need more information about step-parents and child support, see the fact sheet Step-parents Rights and Responsibilities on Legal Aid BC's Family Law in BC website.

Note: A parent cannot refuse to allow the other parent to have their parenting time or contact with the child if he or she fails to pay or falls behind on child support payments.

As well, a paying parent cannot withhold child support in situations where they are not seeing their child or where there are issues about parenting time or contact.

For more information, please see Child support on the Family Law in BC website.