Child Support across the 49th?
June 10, 2009 9:07 PM   Subscribe

How does one go about getting a child support order if one (me, the mother) is in the U.S./a U.S. citizen and the other (him, father) is in Canada and is a Canadian Citizen? The child (who at this time is unborn) will have (I believe) dual citizenship.

We were never married, in fact, this guy left me about 3 weeks after I told him I was pg, and under a month before our wedding date. He seems agreeable to paying support, but that is about it. I'd rather not have to pay a bunch of legal fees and take him to court and all that. Can we just do a contract between ourselves? Is this enforceable if he decides to back out? And how much should he pay? Is there a percentage based on income?

Thanks for any and all info, I really don't know where to start.
posted by Bueller to Law & Government (14 answers total)
IANAL, this is not legal advice.

Get a lawyer.

Your lawyer should help you get a child support agreement in place. The lawyer will know the details about how much support you can reasonably seek, and whether such an agreement will be enforeable on a Canadian citizen, and what steps you may need to seek to make it so.

I STRONGLY advise you to get a lawyer and memorialize your agreement in a legally binding fashion. A mutually agreement between you and the father might not be enforceable down the road.

My father is a divorce lawyer, and I have seen him deal with this issue before. So I re-iterate: get a lawyer and get a child support agreement approved by the court. You should do this even if both of you are working together. A child is a wonderful thing, but also a lifetime of expenses. You can't predict the future, and having this agreement in place is in the best interest of your child.

If you are worried about affording a lawyer, there are certainly Legal Aid non-profits that can help you put this agreement in place.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:41 PM on June 10, 2009

I believe the standard child support paperwork also includes an establishment of paternity. You will want this, along with all the other things it includes.

People change a lot in 18 years. Even if you two are very agreed on the terms now, that won't necessarily be true for the next 18 years. A good part of your child's future relies on you doing the right thing, and getting it in writing, and having it be enforceable. Even an inexpensive lawyer can help with this. You need a lawyer, just to get everything exactly right (and maybe especially because the father lives in a different country). It may even be that the father will be willing to partially pay for the lawyer, as the paperwork protects the child foremost -- but protects him (and you) as well, from any future misunderstandings or misdeeds.
posted by Houstonian at 11:19 PM on June 10, 2009

Nthing the lawyer to help with your consent agreement. I've only seen a couple of these cross border ones, and they are of course more complicated. Even enforcement between jurisdictions in Canada (provinces) is complicated. You owe it to yourselves to get the experts on contracts (lawyers) to help you put your agreement in a proper and useful form. Your ex may balk, but for everyone's benefit, especially the kids, you owe it to yourselves to do this right. I'm not a lawyer either, nor do I work for one, have just been an observer of a few other people's horrible bitter family court fights. Any verbal agreement or even a written one you concoct yourselves will very likely result in court as your best future option.
posted by Listener at 11:35 PM on June 10, 2009

I really don't know where to start.

This is exactly why you'll need a lawyer.
posted by anastasiav at 4:37 AM on June 11, 2009

>I'd rather not have to pay a bunch of legal fees.

The mantra of trouble in the making.

The reason that you should incur legal fees now, to do it right, is to avoid having to raise the child yourself, without any contribution from him (guaranteed to costs hundreds of times your legal fees over the next 18 years or more) or having to get an enforceable judgment and order after months to years of wrangling (likely to be many times the initial legal fees).

Do it right, right from the outset.
posted by yclipse at 4:54 AM on June 11, 2009

In order to make referrals that could more specifically help your situation, both to legal resources and the self-help material you want, to know the state you live in now, and whether that is temporary or intended to be your and the child's permanent residence. Family law rules and legal aid options can vary widely by state.
posted by bunnycup at 5:40 AM on June 11, 2009

IAdefinitelyNAL, but it seems likely that if you don't hire a lawyer and pay the legal fees now, you're likely to have to do it in the future, and it will probably be messier, more lengthy, and more expensive lawyer-wise later on.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:42 AM on June 11, 2009

Not to pile on, but I am a lawyer and I strongly suggest you get one, too. Saving some legal fees now is not worth jeopardizing your future child's welfare in the years to come--especially given the international nature of the situation. Good luck!
posted by Pax at 6:08 AM on June 11, 2009

Houstonian writes "It may even be that the father will be willing to partially pay for the lawyer"

The father needs his own lawyer. He may end up paying legal fees as part of the agreement but he needs an advocate on his side.
posted by Mitheral at 8:11 AM on June 11, 2009

This is pretty tangential, but your child may not be a Canadian citizen if the father is a Canadian citizen solely by virtue of having one or both parents be Canadian (i.e., he was born outside Canada). If he wasn't born in Canada, or naturalized as a Canadian citizen, then he doesn't pass Canadian citizenship to your child.

However, given that your child is probably Canadian, you should look into getting proof of Canadian citizenship. To do that, you'll need to contact the local consular office.
posted by oaf at 8:15 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: bunnycup, I'm in Oregon and will probably stay here.

oaf, just to clarify. He is a Canadian citizen (not a permanent resident) but was born in Sweden. He is a naturalized citizen, then, I take it. Does this pass Canadian citizenship to my child? I'm not sure what advantages that gives us, but just trying to look at all angles.

To everyone else, Thanks. I get it. Get a lawyer.
posted by Bueller at 1:55 PM on June 11, 2009

If he's a naturalized citizen then possibly. But it looks like the kid would have to immigrate to Canada. It doesn't appear to be automatic.

On 17 April 2009, Bill C-37 restricted citizenship by descent to children of parents who were themselves born in Canada or obtained citizenship through naturalization. Those who were citizens by descent on the date the law came into effect retain their citizenship, with no need to apply to maintain it. Under the new law, the second and subsequent generations born abroad can only gain Canadian citizenship by immigrating to Canada; this can be done by their Canadian citizen parents sponsoring them as dependent children, a category with fewer requirements, which would also take less time than most other immigration application categories

And he doesn't pass on his Swedish citizenship, unfortunately.

A child acquires Swedish citizenship at birth if:

- the child's mother is a Swedish citizen (Swedish mothers have only been able to pass on their citizenship since 1 July 1979);
- the child's father is a Swedish citizen and is married to the child's mother;
- the child's father is a Swedish citizen, the child is born out of wedlock, and the child is born in Sweden.

posted by elsietheeel at 3:25 PM on June 11, 2009

He may not have been naturalized if one or both of his parents were Canadian citizens when he was born.

The only reason I'm suggesting getting some proof of Canadian citizenship (if the child is one) now, rather than later, is because it could prove more difficult later.
posted by oaf at 3:29 PM on June 11, 2009

But it looks like the kid would have to immigrate to Canada.

That's only if the father is Canadian by descent. If he naturalized, the child is a citizen.
posted by oaf at 3:31 PM on June 11, 2009

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