Child & Spousal Support

Child Support

A parent’s duty to provide financial support for their child doesn’t end when they separate or divorce from the other parent, regardless of the circumstances of the break up. Parents who have never been in a relationship with the other parent also have the duty provide financial support for their child.

Child support is payable while a child is under the age of 18 or over the age of 18 but still dependent on the parent because of illness, disability, or other reason, such as full-time attendance in school. Child support payments are not taxable income for the parent receiving it, nor are they tax-deductible for the paying parent.

Child support is intended to cover some of the costs related to raising a child. As much as possible, a child should be provided with the same standard of living they enjoyed when their parents were together.

Child Support Guidelines are in place to help determine a fair amount of support for a child when the parents are not together. The guidelines may not apply if special provisions have been made for the child. Special provisions are out-of-the-ordinary arrangements that replace the need for ongoing support and benefit the child financially. For example, sometimes the paying parent will agree to pay all of the child’s special or extraordinary expenses and this may off-set the Table amount of child support.

In almost all cases a parent will claim child support on behalf of their child but the right to benefit from the support is the right of the child. Parents cannot make a binding agreement giving up the right to pursue child support.

The duty to pay child support exists even if the paying parent rarely or never spends time with the child. The duty to provide support will also continue regardless of future relationships or re-marriage.

Agreements

Parents can reach their own agreement about child support and when or how it can be varied. Although the agreement doesn’t need to be based on the guidelines, a court could refuse to approve an amount different than the guideline amount if that amount was inadequate to meet the child’s needs. Because the guidelines provide rules for determining the amount of child support they can help parents reach a fair agreement and may help to ease some tension.

Determining Income

Depending on the situation the income of the paying parent or the income of both parents will be used to calculate child support. For more information on how income affects child support in different situations see Table Amount of Child Support and Non-Table Amount of Child Support.

A parent’s income is generally the amount from line 150 of the T1 General Tax Return, if they earn their income as an employee. The correct amount of income to use when a person is self-employed or receives income from sources other than employment can be more difficult to determine and sometimes help from a professional, such as an accountant, is required.

In some situations the total income reported for a single tax year doesn’t fairly represent a parent’s income due to factors such as fluctuations in income from year-to-year or certain non-traditional sources of income. In these cases the court can consider the average income over the past three years.

Sometimes a parent may not disclose all of their income or intentionally lower the amount of income they earn rather than pay the required amount of child support. In cases such as these the court can “impute” income to that parent. The notion of imputing income allows the court to treat a parent as if they have a higher level of income than was reported.

When considering whether to impute income courts may consider the parent’s lifestyle and whether it indicates that their income is different than what is reported. When a parent is self-employed they may also consider whether business expense deductions are reasonable, regardless of whether they were allowed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The obligation to support a child is so critical that the courts can also consider what a parent is capable of making, not just what they say they are making. When imputing income on the basis of underemployment, the court will consider what is reasonable under the circumstances. The age, education, experience, skills and health of the parent are factors to be considered, as well as availability of work, freedom to re-locate and other obligations.

Imputing income enables the courts to establish a fair level of child support and ensure that a child continues to benefit from the financial means of both parents.

Payments

Generally speaking, child support payments are set up as amounts that are paid monthly. In some situations a different schedule may make more sense and your agreement or court order can reflect this.
Your agreement or court order could state that payments will continue until a certain date or event, or it could be left open-ended. Parents may also agree, or a court may order, that a child be designated as a beneficiary under a life insurance policy, pension plan or other benefit plan, such as a health and wellness or dental plan.

Interim Orders

The court can order child support to be paid during the time between when a family law court case is first heard and the point at which the court makes its final decision. When the court does make its final decision it may make an order that is different than the interim order.