When parents separate or divorce, it is the responsibility of both parents to contribute to the financial needs of their children In almost all situations, this will mean that one of the parents will pay child support to the other. In situations where the child or children live primarily with one parent, the parent with whom the children do not live will pay child support. In situations where the children spend at least 41% of the time with both parents, the parent with the higher income will pay child support.
In 1997, the Federal Government introduced the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The purposes of the Guidelines were to make it easier to determine the amount of child support, to make child support awards more consistent from family to family, to reduce the conflict between the parents, and to establish a fair standard of support for children.
The Guidelines break child support down into two parts: the Basic or Table amount and the Special Expenses.
The Basic or Table amount is determined by considering three things: the province where the payor lives, the gross income of the payor, and the number of children for whom support is being paid. The Federal Government has published a series of Tables for each province that detail the number of children and the gross income of the payor. The first step is to find the Table for the province in which the payor lives and the number of children for whom support is being paid. Each Table lists income ranges, a corresponding Basic Amount, and formula for determining the child support. A step-by-step calculator for the Table amount of Child Support can be found at http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/fcy-fea/lib-bib/pub/guide/index.html.
In addition to the Basic or Table amount, there are certain expenses that the Guidelines say should be split between the parents. These are called the Special Expenses and are to be split between the parents in proportion to their respective incomes. There are six types of Special Expenses:
1. child care expenses that are incurred so that the parent can work, attend school or look for work;
2. medical or dental premiums attributable to the child or children;
3. health-related expenses over and above what is covered by insurance, as long as the expenses are more than $100 per event;
4. extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school or any educational program that the child requires
5. expenses for post-secondary education; and
6. extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.
There are certain situations that make the determination of child support more challenging. If the children spend more than 40% of the time with each parent or one or more children lives with each parent, then the child support is not necessarily a straightforward application of the Guidelines. To determine the correct amount of child support, the parents should seek legal advice.
The application of the Federal Child Support Guidelines is dependent upon determining the correct income of the payor. If the payor is not a straightforward salaried employee, who is employed by an arm’s-length employer, then deciding on the correct income is more challenging. In order to appropriately determine child support, the parents should obtain legal advice.
Even after parents divorce or separate, it remains their mutual responsibility to financially support their children. The Federal Child Support Guidelines are the way Canadian Courts and Judges in Medicine Hat must determine what amounts of child support parents should pay.