Under Canadian law, every biological or adoptive parent has a legal obligation to financially support his or her child. (Sometimes, this obligation can also extend to stepparents.)
While the amount owed will vary according to the circumstances, amounts are largely governed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The obligation to provide support usually ends when the child turns 18, but it may be extended if, for example, the child has chosen to pursue higher education and remains dependent on the parents.
While you might think that “custody” refers to where the child lives, it actually refers to decision-making rights. There are several different forms of custody. Here are the main ones:
“Sole” custody involves one parent making all the major decisions that affect the child, although the other parent will usually have the right to be informed of those decisions. In these situations, the child generally lives full-time with one parent, and the other parent is allowed access on a pre-determined schedule.
“Joint” custody, in contrast, means the parents are jointly responsible for making major decisions pertaining to the child (such as those affecting the child’s health, education, religious instruction and activities). Less important, day-to-day decisions about the child are still left to the parent with primary custody. Joint custody does not mean that the child spends equal time with each parent. Decision-making can be shared even though the child lives predominantly with one parent.
“Shared” custody and shared-custody arrangements focus on the child’s schedule and the proportion of time spent in each parent’s care. (This is different from joint custody, which focuses only on decision-making.) In an equal shared-custody arrangement, decisions are made jointly and the child spends about half the time with each parent.