Every child has the right to be financially supported by both of their parents. The amount of child support, who pays child support, and when child support ends, is determined in accordance with the Federal Child Support Guidelines – often referred to simply as the Guidelines. The goal of the Guidelines is to ensure that children continue to be supported by both parents after separation.
The parenting arrangement dictates who pays child support.
Primary Residence with One Parent : If a child resides with one parent at least 60% of the time, the other parent will be required to pay child support.
Equal Time Sharing : If a child resides with both parents equally, resulting in the child spending more than 40% of their time with each parent, then both parents are responsible to pay child support to each other.
Split Custody : If you are the parents to two or more children and each parent has one (or more) of the children in their care more than 60% of the time, each parent will be responsible for paying child support for the child(ren) that are not in their care.
The responsibility to pay child support is not limited to biological parents. Step-parents, adoptive parents, and other people who stand in the place of a parent for a child can potentially be obligated to pay child support. Whether or not a step-parent will be obligated to pay child support will depend on each family’s unique circumstances.
Potentially – even if the child spends equal amounts of time in each parent’s house (also known as equal time sharing), child support can typically be paid. The Court will consider the amount that each parent would owe based on the Guidelines, whether there are any increased costs incurred by either of the parents due to the parenting arrangement, and the parties’ financial circumstances.
As a starting point, the Court will often order a set-off calculation. This means that Court will calculate how much each parent owes for child support based on their incomes, and require the parent who owes more to pay the other parent the difference between the two amounts. This can be adjusted, however, if one of the parties’ financial circumstances suggest that a different amount should be paid.
Child support is calculated by referring to the tables set out in the Guidelines. The tables give a set amount payable based on the parent’s income and the number of children being supported.
The first question that must be answered is: what is the income of the parent responsible to pay child support? Most often, this question is answered by looking at the paying parent’s gross income (before tax income) reported at Line 150 on their most recent Income Tax Return. However, sometimes the value on the paying parent’s Income Tax Return is not an accurate representation of the paying parent’s actual income, so the income reported on Line 150 is only the starting point. The income reported in the paying parent’s Income Tax Return may need to be scrutinized based on the parent’s type of employment (i.e. if they are self-employed) or their past work history.
After determining the paying parent’s income, the tables give a set amount based on the number of children. Anyone seeking child support, or looking to pay child support, can determine the amount payable by looking up the paying parent’s income on the tables, and the corresponding amount owed based on the number of children the paying parent is responsible to support.
In rare circumstances, the Court may deviate from the table amount of support and order that less child support is payable if it would be unfair or cause undue hardship to the paying parent. Child support may be adjusted if the paying parent is paying high costs to exercise access to a child, is responsible for paying off high levels of debt from before separation or has a legal duty to support another person or child. However, most often the child support amount stated in the table will be paid.
Yes – in addition to the amount of child support set out in the tables, parents must also contribute towards a child’s special and extraordinary expenses, which often include extracurricular expenses.
Special and extraordinary expenses, sometimes referred to as Section 7 expenses based on the section of the Guidelines that requires parents to pay them, can include items such as:
These expenses are to be shared by the parents if the expense was incurred for the best interests of the child, and is reasonable in relation to the parents’ incomes or spending habits prior to separation. Each parent is responsible to pay a proportionate share of these expenses based on their income. A parent who earns a higher income will be responsible to pay a larger share of special and extraordinary expenses.
Child support is payable for children under 18. After 18, if the child is enrolled in full-time education or continues to be dependent on their parents due to an illness or disability, child support is still payable. Child support ends when the child is over the age of 18 and able to withdraw from their parent’s care.
Even though child support does not necessarily end after a child turns 18, the amount of child support may change. After the child turns 18, the tables are often used as a starting point for determining child support but are no longer automatically applied. A child may also be expected to contribute to their own support or post-secondary educational expenses.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is only intended for information purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Speak to one of our family law lawyers if you have any questions about domestic contracts.
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