What is Child Support, and What is its Purpose?

Most people are familiar with the concept of child support. In a separation or divorce, the non-custodial parent must pay money to the custodial parent. The idea is that both parents are contributing to the cost of raising a child. The amount of support is usually calculated based on the non-custodial parent’s income, although there are some exceptions to this, such as when parents essentially “share” custody of the child, both incurring out of pocket costs for the child’s care.

What Are the Child Support Guidelines?

In an effort to make child support easier to calculate and more fair to children and parents, the Government of Canada established the child support guidelines. These are pre-set numbers of support payable based on a parent’s income, province of residence, and number of children.

Sometimes a parent’s tax return does not accurately reflect their real income due to tax benefits, self-employment, or other reasons. A person’s “guideline income” is not necessarily reflected in his or her line 150 income from his or her tax return.

What if the guideline amount is too much for what I can afford?

A parent who feels the guideline support is too high for them to pay may make an application for what is called ‘undue hardship’. However, this application is quite complicated and involves many different factors. You will want to speak to a lawyer experienced in dealing with child support matters to navigate this effectively.

Who pays the big expenses such as daycare or medical and dental work?

The guideline amount is often also referred to as “base child support”. This means that the number for monthly support is only a starting point, and that generally the parents are also expected to contribute to additional expenses. The amount each parent pays is split proportionally based on both parents’ incomes.

These are called “extraordinary expenses”, and are often referred to as “section 7 expenses” as they are set out in section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Section 7 expenses can include dental, medical, or childcare costs, as well as a number of other expenses. Whether or not an expense is “extraordinary” depends on a number of factors which can be discussed with your lawyer.

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