Parents are required to financially support their children. 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 a 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.
While a parent generally claims child support on behalf of their child, 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.
If you want to make a court application for child support or respond to one served on you and you are not represented by a lawyer you should look at the information in Unrepresented Litigants. If you want to use the Form Wizard to make or respond to a court application for child support create a free account to get started.
Child Support Guidelines
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, if something like a trust fund is set up for a child.
The income of the paying parent or the income of both parents will be needed to calculate child support, depending on the situation. If the Table amount is being used, only the paying parent’s income is used to determine support. If a Non-Table amount is being used, or there is a claim for special or extraordinary expenses, both parents’ incomes will be needed.
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. 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. This can be 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.
Parties who are involved in a court case regarding child support are required to provide information needed to determine their income.
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.
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.
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 agreed 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.
In most cases the amount of child support will be determined by the Tables in the Child Support Guidelines. These Tables apply to situations where the child lives with one parent more than sixty percent of the time.
In some cases the Table amount will not be used to determine the amount of child support. A different amount can be ordered if paying or receiving the Table amount would cause undue hardship, if there are special or extraordinary expenses, if the child is over 18, when certain parenting arrangements are in place, when the person being asked to pay child support is a step-parent or when the paying parent’s income is over $150,000 per year.