Child Support Guidelines

Paying Child Support

One of the most common issues in family law is child support.  You normally must pay child support if you are the non-custodial or non-principal residence parent after separation and divorce.

Child Support Cases in Canada

Divorce child support cases in Canada are governed by the federal government.  That means child support law is the same in all provinces and territories in Canada – including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.  However, the amount of child support payable in each province is different, due to the different cost of living in each province.  The procedure to obtain and collect child support in each province is different, and each province has its own child support forms.

Federal Child Support Guidelines – Child Support Tables

The Child Support Guidelines provide Child Support Tables (child support charts) that determine how much each individual will pay for child support. The amount of your monthly child support payments is determined by the province you live in, the number of children you’ll be paying support for, and the amount of money you earn.

Here you’ll find the official federal child support calculator:  click here.  However, using this child support calculator is just a start – the basic table amount of child support is only a base.

The Child Support Guidelines Often Require Payment of More than the Table Amount

Often the Child Support Guidelines require higher child support payments than the amount set out in the Child Support Tables (child support charts).  This is because you must contribute to what are known as “special or extraordinary expenses” (also known as “section 7 expenses”) which include items such as daycare, medical expenses, some extra-curricular activities, private school and post-secondary education. Both parents are required to share special or extraordinary expenses in proportion with their incomes.

You’ve Got to Pay Extra for Your Child’s Hockey Expenses

When determining whether an extra-curricular activity qualifies as a special or extraordinary expense (section 7 expense), a child support court looks at the cost of the expense versus the costs of the activity. The child support payor will argue that the expense is already included in the table amount of child support given by the child support charts and the support recipient will argue the opposite. The reality though is that most judges like hockey, and if you’re not willing to contribute to your child’s hockey expenses, don’t expect favourable treatment by the judges. Optics are important in child support court and child support law isn’t always fair.

In Rare Cases, the Child Support Guidelines Let You Pay Less than the Table Amount

Although some child support rights activists may argue otherwise, normally your child support payments can’t be less than the table amount of child support required by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Child support law provides a few exceptions to this, however.

Note:  spending you do for your child will not reduce child support, even if you end up being the one who buys your child all their clothes, toys, school supplies, sport supplies, etc.

  • One exception is if you can prove that the application of the Child Support Guidelines would cause you undue hardship. However the child support courts have interpreted this provision vary narrowly, and it is difficult to prove undue hardship. If you manage to do this, your case will be read by every family law lawyer in the country.
  • If your child is eighteen or older, then child support payments need not be based on the federal child support tables. A child support court will instead look at your child’s financial needs and their ability to contribute to their own support. That being said, often the child support charts are used as a basis for starting (and sometimes ending) this analysis.
  • If your income exceeds one hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, following the federal child support tables is discretionary. Again, the courts normally do follow the child support tables unless a person’s income is about one million dollars per year or more. If you earn more than a million dollars per year, feel free to retain me.
  • In cases of shared custody, where both parents look after the children approximately the same amount of time, child support payments may be reduced below the child support table (but will not necessarily be reduced).

Joint Custody Child Support

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that if there is joint custody, child support is reduced.  However, this is not the case.  In deciding whether to reduce child support, the court looks at the amount of time the children spend with each parent, not the custody arrangement.

When Child Support Ends

Child support payments typically continue until your children are no longer in school. This means that you’ll often pay child support even when your child is in college or university earning their diploma or degree. There have been a few child support law cases where child support has been extended even further than this. Supporting your children is a life-long responsibility, and it doesn’t normally end when they turn eighteen as many believe.

Child Support And Taxes

Generally speaking, your child support payments will not qualify you for any tax deductions if your order for child support was made after May 1, 1997. Likewise, the recipient of the child support does not have to pay taxes on the money you’ve sent. If your order for child support was made before May 1, 1997 then you can deduct the child support on your tax return and the parent who receives the support must pay tax on the amounts received.

Back Child Support

Normally a person won’t be liable for back child support prior to the date that child support was initially requested.  If you do owe back child support, you can make a proposal to the court as to how you will catch up on the arrears.

Controlling How The Child Support Is Used

The payor has no control over how the child support is spent. The child support court has deemed your former spouse capable of looking after your children and assumes any monies received will be looked after and used appropriately, also. I know, it’s not always the case.

Denying Access and Withholding Payments

Even if you are denied access to your children you cannot stop your child support payments. Access and child support cases are considered independent legal issues.

Child Support Is Due For the Child Even If The Parents Were Never Married

It doesn’t matter if you and the other parent were not married. It doesn’t matter if your child is the result of a one-night stand. It doesn’t matter if your girlfriend tricked you about birth control. Child support payments are there to help the child financially; the Child Support Guidelines provide that your child should not suffer financially because of your partner’s misconduct.

Child Support Is Due Even if the Other Parent Earns More Than You Do

Even if the other parent’s income is substantially greater than yours, you still have to pay child support. The idea behind this is that if you were an intact family, you’d still be helping your child financially; your child should not suffer financially because your relationship has fallen apart. In many cases, however, this child support obligation may be partially or completely offset by a spousal support obligation.

Child Support Is Still Payable Even If You Don’t See Your Child

Normally in law, if someone hurts you, they’ve got to pay you. In family law, like in Alice in Wonderland, this is reversed. So, if the child’s other parent moves half way around the globe to Australia so that you can never see your children, or alienates your child so that your child no longer wants to see you, under the Child Support Guidelines, you still have to make child support payments.

Child Support Modification

Child support can be modified when the payor’s income changes – either up or down.  The process for a child support modification will vary depending on how child support was originally arrived at.  Many court orders and separation agreements now provide a mechanism for annual adjustments of child support, in which case you just follow the procedure set out.  If no such mechanism is set out, or if the other spouse is not cooperative, modification proceedings will need to be commenced in court.

Child Support Can’t Be Reduced Because You Have a New Family

So you’ve remarried and find out that you and your new partner are expecting triplets. Will child support law give you a break on your child support payments because of this? Probably not. Expect to eat Kraft dinner for the next 25 years. And if you take on extra work to support the triplets, your child support obligations under the Child Support Guidelines will increase commensurately.

New Partner

Will your new partner’s financial situation be relevant to determining your child support obligation under the Federal Child Support Guidelines? Probably not. However, you may need to disclose your new partner’s income information to your ex.

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Additional Information

Learn more about child support in our comprehensive child support book:

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