Child Support – The Basics
Pursuant to section 3 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, the amount of base child support payable by a spouse is the amount set out in the applicable Federal Child Support Table (“Table”), according to the number of children of the marriage and the income of the payor spouse. The applicable Table is determined by reference to the province of the payor spouse.
The Tables can be found at Schedule 1 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. A simplified Alberta Table is available from the Department of Justice Canada here.
Child of the Marriage
A “child of the marriage” is defined by section 2(1) of the Divorce Act as a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,
- is under the age of majority and who has not withdrawn from their charge, or
- is the age of majority or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life.
A spouse’s income is determined by looking to the Total Income of the spouse as indicated in his/her T1 General Income Tax Return.
A spouse’s income as reported to the Canada Revenue Agency may be adjusted for the purposes of child support to reflect patterns of income or situations where a spouse is a shareholder, director or officer of a corporation. Income may be imputed to a spouse in various circumstances, including where a spouse is seen to be intentionally under-employed or unemployed.
Where base child support relates to a child over the age of majority (for example, a child attending post secondary school), the court may take into consideration the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the child.
Adjustments may be made to the base child support payable where a spouse’s income is over $150,000 or where a spouse is seen to be experiencing “undue hardship” in relation to the payment of base child support, including where a spouse has unusually high expenses in relation to exercising access to a child or the spouse has a legal duty to support a child, other than a child of the marriage.
Where spouses have a shared parenting arrangement, meaning both spouses have “physical custody” of a child for more than 40% of the time, the amount of base child support payable is to be determined by taking into account:
- the amounts set out in the applicable tables for each of the spouses;
- the increased costs of shared custody arrangements; and
- the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse and of any child for whom support is sought.
Base Child Support Table Look-Up Tool
The Government of Canada provides the following Child Support Table Look-Up tool which can be used to estimate the amount of base child support payable by a spouse.
Child Support for (Section 7) Special or Extraordinary Expenses
Pursuant to section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, the court may also order a spouse to provide for the special or extraordinary expenses of a child of the marriage, such expenses being:
- child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
- that portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
- health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counselling provided by a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses;
- extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs;
- expenses for post-secondary education; and
- extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.
The court is to consider the necessity of the special or extraordinary expenses in relation to the child’s best interests and the reasonableness of the expenses in relation to the means of the spouses and those of the child and to the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation.
Special or extraordinary expenses are to be shared by spouses in proportion to their respective incomes.
For example, if one spouse earns $25,000 and one spouse earns $75,000, the spouses would share the special or extraordinary expenses with the spouse earning $25,000 paying 25% of such expenses and the spouse earning $75,000 paying the remaining 75%.