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Many people going through a separation or divorce often find the process and the law confusing and don’t know where to look for answers.  One of the most common areas in which questions arise is around Child Support; many people want to know what it can be used for, how much they have to pay, why they have to pay child support, and how it is calculated.

In recognition of this, we have attempted to create a list of the most frequently asked questions relating to child support, along with concise answers to help those who are looking for information.  If, after reviewing this list, you still have additional questions, please send us an email at akoeman@mincherkoeman.com and we will add your question to the list, along with our answer.

 

CHILD SUPPORT FAQ

  1. What is Child Support?

Simply put, Child Support is financial support intended to cover the costs of caring for and raising children.  The presumption is that, while in a relationship, parents jointly financially provide for their children, and a separation or divorce should not detract from the parents’ obligations in continuing to provide for the care and needs of their children.  Child Support is intended to ensure that, even if the parents are no longer in a relationship, they will still provide financial support for the children.  Essentially, it is support for the children, not the adults.

  1. Why am I paying it to the other parent then?

The presumption is that, while child support is intended as financial support for the children, up until the age of 18 it is the parents who provide for the care and needs of the children.  It is only in very rare circumstances that a parent might be permitted to pay the support directly to their children, as opposed to the other parent.

  1. What is child support meant to cover?

There are two different types of child support: (1) Section 3 support; and (2) Section 7 support.  Section 3 support, also known as base child support, is meant to cover the general living expenses of the children.  These are the everyday needs and basic items of life, such as the added cost of housing, food, clothing, haircuts, school supplies, toys, and other personal items for the children.

Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) Section 7 expenses are intended for extraordinary expenses related to:

  1. child care expenses that are incurred because of a parent’s job, illness, education, or disability
  2. medical and dental insurance premiums for the children
  3. health care needs for the child, in excess of $100 per year, that are not covered by insurance
  4. expenses related to post-secondary education
  5. extraordinary expenses related to the child’s educational programs
  6. extraordinary expenses for the child’s extracurricular activities

before an expense is deemed to be a Section 7 expense, it must be (1) necessary because it is in the child’s best interests, and (2) reasonable given the means of the parents and the child and in light of the family’s spending patterns before separation.

However, notwithstanding that the Guidelines specify only “extraordinary” expenses for extracurricular activities are to be considered section 7 expenses, the Courts have historically and consistently lumped all extracurricular activity fees in the category of section 7 expenses, regardless of whether they might be considered extraordinary.

  1. What are these “Guidelines” for child support?

The Guidelines are actually not “guidelines”.  Rather they are a single piece of legislation that sets out how to determine the child support obligations of the parents.  Prior to 1997, there were no official acts or pieces of legislation that determined the amount of child support to be paid per any given income.  As a result, the ultimate decisions would be made by the Courts on the circumstances of each individual case, often by looking at the “means and needs” of the children, and not just the income of the parents.  The Guidelines aimed to bring more consistency to the determination of support by assigning specific amounts to be paid for child support based on the incomes of the parties.  In effect, the Guidelines treat all families and children as the same and do away with the discretion of the Courts to actually look at the means and needs of the children and the individual factors of each family, instead simply ordering support on the basis of what the parents earn.

  1. How do the Guidelines calculate child support?

In developing the formula to determine child support, the Department of Justice sought to equalize the living standards of the two separate households of the parties.  This was done by relying upon an equivalence scale that had been devised by Statistics Canada in developing the Low Income Measures.  In effect, the equivalence scale used in the child support formula assumes that in a single parent household, one child will increase the costs of the standard of living by 40%, and each additional child will increase the costs of the standard of living by an additional 30% over the initial standard of living.  Notwithstanding that this scale was used to originally determine Low Income Measures, and deviates from the more accurate scales that change according to different levels of income and the ages of children, these scales are constant across child support calculations for any age of the children and any level of income earned.  As an example, if a parent earning a net income of $30,000 per year spends the whole of their net income on themselves, that parent requires an additional $12,000 of spending per year (40% of $30,000) to maintain that standard of living if they have one child.  The Guidelines assume this same equivalence applies to high income families as well, and that a parent earning a net income of $3,000,000 per year will require $1,200,000 extra spending per year to maintain their same standard of living if they have one additional child – regardless of the child’s age.

 

This blog will return with Part 2 of the Child Support FAQ, next week.  If you need help with your child support, the lawyers at Mincher Koeman Family Law Chambers have the experience and the skills to help you. Give us a call at (403) 910-3000, or email us at reception@mincherkoeman.com.

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