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Posted on October 24th 2006 in Family Law

The Child Support Guidelines

The Child Support Guidelines

In the late nineties, the federal government made sweeping changes to how child support was calculated by introducing the Child Support Guidelines. The goals of the Guidelines were to make child support fair, predictable and consistent. To this end, certain rules as well as tables were created to assist in the calculation of child support. Within short order, the various provinces followed suit by introducing their own version of the Child Support Guidelines.

What follows is an overview of the steps involved in calculating child support1 for those living in Ontario.

Step 1 – Which set of Guidelines apply?
If you are divorced or in the process of getting divorced, then you will be subject to the Federal Child Support Guidelines. If however, you have decided to separate only or if you and the other parent have never married then the Provincial Child Support Guidelines will apply. It should be noted that the amounts prescribed in the federal and provincial tables are the same.

Step 2 – How many children are affected?
While this may sound like a strange question, it is an important one. For instance, children who have reached the age of majority may be entitled to support if they are still in school full time. Children from other relationships will generally be excluded for the purposes of this calculation, unless the paying parent has acted like a parent to these other children.

Step 3 – What is the custody arrangement?
The Guidelines recognize three types of custody arrangements.
1. Sole custody – the children are with the paying parent less than 40 per cent of the time.
2. Shared custody – the children live with each parent on a near-equal basis or more than 40 per cent of the time with each parent.
3. Split custody – each parent has sole custody of one or more of the children.
The custody arrangement that parents have entered into will have an effect on the amount of support that will be paid.

Step 4 – Choose the appropriate table
If you are subject to the Federal Child Support Guidelines (because you are divorcing) you must next choose which table applies. There is a separate set of Federal Child Support Tables for each province and territory. The amounts vary due to slight differences in provincial and territorial tax rates. If the paying parent resides in Canada, it is the table for the province where that parent lives. If the paying parent lives outside of Canada, then it is the provincial table where the receiving parent lives.

Step 5 – Calculate the paying parent’s annual income
Annual income refers to gross income, before taxes, from all sources, subject to some minor adjustments.

If the paying parent is employed as a salaried employee and has no other income, then this calculation will be fairly straightforward. Where difficulties may arise is if the paying parent is self-employed, has income from investments or property or is a director or major shareholder in a corporation.

Step 6 – Determine the table amount
With the number of eligible children and income, you are able to determine the monthly amount of child support by consulting the relevant table.

Effective May 1, 2006 the table amounts will be increased.

Step 7 – Determine any special expenses
While the table amount generally represents the support children are entitled to, there may be additional expenses above and beyond this amount. These expenses are referred to as special expenses and include:
• Child care expenses.
• That portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child.
• Health-related expenses not covered by insurance, e.g. orthodontic treatment, professional counselling, occupational therapy, prescription drugs.
• 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.
• Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.

These special expenses are in addition to the table amount. Generally each parent shares in the cost of the special expenses in proportion to his or her income. However, depending on the level of child support being paid contribution for all special expense is not always appropriate. This occurs in high income cases where the base level of support is very high and the recipient is then expected to pay for most special expenses from the base support amount.

Step 8 – Is undue hardship a factor?
In certain circumstances, the amount of support combined with other factors, can cause undue hardship to either a parent or a child. Those factors may include:
o The high expenses associated with access.
o A legal duty to support another person, including a child of another relationship.
o The standard of living of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent.
In cases of undue hardship, a parent may ask the court to raise or lower the amount of child support.

Although the Child Support Guidelines have made the calculation of child support easier, there are nevertheless a number of potential problem areas. Therefore it is always a good idea to seek legal advice. If you require further information about child support or another area of family law please contact Nicola Savin or Jacqueline Peeters. They would be pleased to assist you. 1

1If you have a child support order or agreement that was made before May 1, 1997, the date the Guidelines took effect, these Guidelines did not automatically change it.