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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add your question to the list, along with our answer.
CHILD SUPPORT FAQ
Simply put, Child Support is financial support to provide for your child’s food, clothing and shelter. The presumption is that, while in a relationship, parents jointly financially provide for their children, and when couples separate or divorce, this 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, and the children will continue to have a similar standard of living.
Essentially, it is support for the children, not the adults.
The parent who pays child support pays financial support to the other parent for the children that are in the other parent’s care. As the caregiver of the child, the parent who receives the money, does so on behalf of the child. Still, accepting financial support does not change the nature of the funding; it remains the money to be used to support the child and not the parent.
The governing legislation for child support, the Federal Child Support Guidelines (“FCSG” – for married couples) and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines (“ACSG” – for common-law couples), sets what child support is payable as set out in the applicable tables, according to the number of children who can claim support. This means every child in the same province, with parents who have a similar income, should receive the same child support.
There are two categories of expenses the child support is meant to cover:
You don’t. If your child is appropriately fed, clothed and has a comfortable home, then the child support is being spent properly.
The amount of child support calculated depends on which category of child support you are referring to:
In a nutshell, ‘income’ means the annual income of a parent. It is not just a parties’ Line 150 income. For example, items that can be deducted for the Canada Revenue Agency purposes may not be deducted when determining your income. Income can be determined by the court using the following methods:
Child support is determined by considering a parent’s gross income.
No, the Court will not accept all expense deductions.
Where a parent earns self-employment income and deducts amounts for salaries, benefits, wages or management fees, the court will only accept those deductions and not add them back for the determination of child support where the parent establishes that the payments are:
Schedule III adjustments affect the determination of a parent’s annual income when using the sources of income set out under the heading ‘Total Income’ in a parent’s T1 General form issued by the Canada Revenue Agency. The stipulated expenses in Schedule III are the deductions that are accepted when determining income and include:
Yes, the current income is used, although often support will be based on last years income simply because that is often the only information available.
‘Imputed income’ is the amount of income that the Court will attribute to a parent that they consider appropriate in the circumstances.
In some cases, that will mean the Court will set what the appropriate income would be where the spouse with the obligation to pay support fails, through intentional actions, to maximize income from employment. In other cases, the court will deem that a spouse makes a specific higher amount, where that spouse has pursued a deliberate court of conduct to undermine or avoid their child support obligations.
In these circumstances, the amount of child support would be determined by taking into account the amounts set out in the applicable tables, the increased costs of shared arrangements and the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse and any child for which support is sought. All three of these factors should be considered and none would independently prevail.
Circumstances that may cause a spouse or child to suffer undue hardship include:
No, upon separation you and your ex-partner or spouse may agree to pay child support without the involvement of the courts. However, these arrangements are not legally binding so it may become necessary to come to court to obtain a legally enforceable document for the payment of child support. The Maintenance Enforcement Program can only enforce a child support order not agreement.
Yes, parents may decide on how much child support to pay, as long as the amounts set in the child support guidelines are the base amount payable. Therefore, it is always open to parents to pay more than the amounts stipulated in the governing legislation.
No, not usually. Considering child support is the obligation of the parents, a parent’s subsequent marriage or relationship does not generally affect existing child support obligations.
Your new partner’s income may become relevant if you make an application for undue hardship, and the Court undertakes a ‘Standards of Living Test’ as set out in Schedule II. Despite fulfilling the requirements for a determination of undue hardship, a court will deny your application if your household, as the spouse claiming an undue hardship, would have a higher standard of living than the household of the other spouse after a determination of child support is made.
No-one would not be under an obligation to pay support for their step-children unless a child support order was sought against them and it was established that they stand in the place of a parent and that the amount to be paid is considered appropriate.
A step-parent would be considered to be standing in the place of a parent if the person:
No, child support payments are not considered taxable income. Therefore, child support payments are neither deductible by the payor nor taxable to the payee.
Yes, a shared custody arrangement may affect income tax. For example, when claiming the amount for an eligible dependent, only the recipient parent can claim that tax benefit and not the payor parent.
In situations where there is a shared custody arrangement or court order clearly establishing that you and another person are required to make child support payments, neither of you would be able to claim the amount for an eligible dependant for that child. However, in this case, it may be possible for you to claim the amount for an eligible dependent as long as you and the other party agree that you can make that claim. If no agreement is reached, then neither of you can claim an amount for an eligible dependent for the child.
Even if an agreement is reached, the claiming parent would only be able to claim for the time the child is in their care.
Where a parent has failed to provide income information when under a legal obligation to do so, the Court may impute the amount of income to the parent that it considers appropriate in the circumstances.
The Court may also, on application, consider the non-obliging spouse to be in contempt of court and award costs in favor of the applicant or make an order requiring the other spouse to provide the required documents to the court or the other spouse.
It depends. If the child is under the age of majority but has withdrawn from the care and control of their parents and are living an independent lifestyle, then child support payments would no longer need to be made. The obligation to pay would be revived if the minor abandons their independent lifestyle and returns to the care of their parents.
If the child is over the age of majority, and not living with either parent but has not withdrawn from their parent’s care because they are a full-time student, child support would still have to be paid.
If the child is no longer living with either parent because they are a spouse or interdependent partner, no child support would need to be paid.
It should be noted, that parents may still be obligated to pay child support if an application for support is made by a person who has care and control of the child (ie. an aunt) or by someone with the permission of the court where it is considered the application would be in the best interests of the child.
Retroactive support refers to child support amounts that make up for not paying the proper amount of child support in the past; in other words, back-dated child support.
Once a court determines that retroactive child support should be ordered, as a general rule, the award should be retroactive to the date of effective notice but no more than three years into the past. Effective notice does not require the recipient parents taking legal action, all that is required is that the topic of child support not being paid or not being enough but canvassed. This three-year limit encourages recipient parents to be proactive.
You first put the other parent on notice that they have an obligation to pay child support, by asking for child support in writing.
If they still do not pay, you may seek an Order for child support from the court. Once you receive an Order for child support, you can have the Order registered with Maintenance Enforcement Program which has tools for compelling the payment of child support, such as suspending the other parent’s license until payment is made.
For divorced parents, the child support payments end when a child is either:
The age of majority in Alberta is 18 years old.
For parents separated from common law relationships, child support ends either when:
Child support orders may be changed or varied prospectively or retrospectively, on application when there is:
– a change of circumstances that occurs after the making of the last child support order; or
– evidence of a substantial nature that was unavailable in the previous hearing that has become available.
Circumstances that can give rise to the making of a variation order include:
Lying-in expenses are expenses that are meant to contribute to the reasonable costs of being pregnant and carrying a baby to term and preparing for the birth of the baby. Costs cover for expenses related to maternity vitamins, maternity clothes and baby-related equipment such as cribs. These expenses may be sought as part of a child-support application to the court.
An Application for lying-in expenses can be made either during the pregnancy or after the birth of the child. It is common for the application to be made after the child is born as it makes things easier by combining the application with one for child support.
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