Child Support: The Details
In Ontario the Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate and determine the monthly child support amounts paid by one parent to the other for the benefit of the child(ren). Parents are legally obligated to support all of their dependent children. This is required as long as the child is a minor (under 18) or if over the age of 18 and is living at home and enrolled in full time education. Children over the age of 18 with disabilities may remain dependents, and thus be entitled to child support. A person may also be obligated to pay support even if the person is not the biological parent, but has stood in the place of the biological parent, as a step-parent.
Child Support is typically resolved out of court and detailed in the separation agreement.
The Gelman & Associates website has a helpful Child Support Calculator which can provide you with an approximate calculation of a child support obligation based on your current financial situation.
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES
Once the child(ren)’s primary residency is established, the Child Support Guidelines are referred to in order to determine the monthly support amount to be paid by the parent who does not have the child(ren) primarily residing with them. The Child Support Guidelines is essentially a Table/Chart whereby Support is calculated based on the gross income of the parent paying support and the number of children support is to be paid for. It is important to note that gross income includes among other things, stock options, bonuses, overtime, investment income, rental income, etc.
A parent can apply for Child Support at any time after separation, provided that they can demonstrate that the child lives in their care and custody primarily. It is customary to apply for support immediately after separation or as part of the divorce application. Even if Child Support is not sought at first, you can apply for Child Support at a later date and claim retroactive support from date of separation, provided that your request is not unreasonable and the children are still eligible to receive support.
The parties have many options available to ensure that child support is paid. In separation agreements the parties can agree to provide post-dated cheques or to make direct bank deposits to the other’s bank account. In the event of a default in payment or NSF, the support recipient may seek enforcement of the child support agreement through the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), a provincial government body that enforces and collects child support from the support payor for the benefit of the support recipient. The support recipient would be required to file the separation agreement with the courts for FRO enforcement.
SPECIAL & EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES
In addition to the Child Support Guidelines there is another type of child support that is commonly referred to as “s. 7 special and extraordinary expenses”. These expenses are over and above the minimum table amounts required according to the Child Support Guidelines and are paid by the parents. Should the child(ren) have additional expenses that are extraordinary or special, both parents will be obligated to contribute to such expenses in proportion to their respective incomes. A few examples of s. 7 special and extraordinary expenses are: daycare costs, tutoring fees, extracurricular activities, dental/medical expenses and post-secondary educational costs.
If both parties are sharing s. 7 expenses for the child(ren) in proportion to their respective incomes then both parents will be required to disclose and provide to the other their annual income tax returns and notices of assessments on a yearly basis in order to determine the percentage each parent is obligated to pay towards the s. 7 expenses.
It is becoming more common for both parents to equally parent the child(ren). In recent years we have seen a significant increase in a “shared parenting” approach whereby the child(ren) reside equally with both parents (shared custody). The child or children basically have two homes and spend equal time with their parents. For example, in a situation whereby a child is “shared” and resides equally with both parents, the Child Support Guideline Tables will not apply. In such a situation an examination of the parents’ incomes and household expenses will be needed in order to determine which parent has the higher financial burden when it comes to raising the children. This parenting arrangement may result in a reduced payment of monthly child support. Both parents would be required to demonstrate their expenses for the child and determine what amount of child support is to be paid. As above with s. 7 expenses, yearly disclosure of income is required by both parents.
Lastly, unlike spousal support, child support is not tax deductible by the payor and not deemed taxable income by the recipient.