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The topic of child support may create a lot of debate between parents, especially during a separation or divorce. However, laws exist to keep child(ren) safe and financially supported.

What is Child Support?

When there are child(ren) of the relationship and the parties are in the process of a separation and/or divorce, there is a legal obligation on the parents to support the child(ren) in accordance with the provincial and federal laws. Child support is the right of the child(ren) regardless of whether their parents were married or lived in a common law relationship.

Who pays Child Support?

Child support is money paid by one parent to the other parent to help cover the costs associated with caring for their child(ren). Usually child support is paid by the parent with whom the child(ren) spend less time; however, even if the child(ren) reside with each parent for approximately 50% of the time, the parent with the higher income may have to pay child support to the other parent by way of “set-off” child support. The parent who pays child support is called the “payor parent” and the parent who receives child support is called the “recipient parent”. 

The amount of child support payable by the payor parent to the recipient parent is determined using the Federal Child Support Guidelines and/or the Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines clearly indicate the basic monthly child support payable by the payor parent to cover the basic expenses of the child(ren). In determining the basic monthly child support payable the Guidelines consider the gross annual income of the payor parent, the province of residence of the payor parent as well as the number of children for which support is payable.

When do I apply for child support?

A child support application is usually filed when a divorce or separation occurs and the parents are living separate and apart, but it can happen any time after as well and can be settled by way of a Court Application or a Domestic Contract, such as a Separation Agreement. However, applying for child support as early as possible can prevent future disputes and disagreements over this matter. Immediately after a separation, the spouses might not feel the need for child support. However, it is important to remember that child support is the right of the child and is governed by the Federal or provincial Guidelines

 How is child support calculated?

The Federal Child Support Guidelines and/or the Child Support Guidelines allow for the calculation of the basic monthly amount of child support payable by the payor parent to the recipient parent using the payor parent’s gross annual income, province of residence and the number of children for whom they owe child support. Child support is reviewed and adjusted on an annual basis, based on the factors as listed above. 

In addition, the payor parent may be required to contribute to the child(ren)’s Section 7 Special or Extraordinary expenses in addition to their basic monthly child support payment. Section 7 Special or Extraordinary expenses may include expenses for the child(ren) such as daycare, braces, and extraordinary extracurricular activities. Section 7 Special or Extraordinary expenses are shared by the parents in proportion to their respective annual incomes. More information on what constitutes a Section 7 Special or Extraordinary expense can be found at Section 7 of the Federal or provincial Child Support Guidelines.  

What happens if you have shared custody or shared parental decision-making of the child(ren)?

If you and your former partner have shared custody of the child(ren) (with a shared residential schedule), then both parents may have an obligation to financially support the child(ren) by way of child support payments to each other. These child support payments are based on the number of children, the gross annual incomes of the parties and the Federal Child Support Guidelines and/or the Child Support Guidelines. This type of arrangement is commonly referred to as “set-off” child support.

When does child support end?

Child support is generally payable until the child reaches the age of majority (i.e. 18 years of age) and is no longer enrolled in full-time education. However, there are other reasons for the termination of child support payments.