Non-Table Amount of Child Support
There are some situations where the court can order child support in an amount that is higher or lower than the Table amount. The following are some situations where an amount different than the Table amount may be ordered.
Special or Extraordinary Expenses
Under the Child Support Guidelines each parent is expected to contribute to special or extraordinary expenses related to the child. Special or extraordinary expenses are those that go above and beyond the ordinary expenses for raising a child. Typically, these expenses include things like:
- child care expenses incurred due to the parent’s job, attendance at school, or illness
- some health-related expenses such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, glasses or contact lenses that exceed any coverage by at least $100 annually
- tutoring and other extraordinary educational expenses
- some elite or advanced training for sports or the arts
- post-secondary education costs for a child who is still dependant on their parents
Other expenses are not typically considered special or extraordinary but rather expenses that are at least in part covered by the Table child support amount. For example, expenses related to regular day-to-day living, such as food, clothing, shelter and transportation, and other expenses such as weekly allowances, occasional babysitting services and basic sports and recreation costs cannot usually be claimed as special expenses.
Either parent can claim special or extraordinary expenses. When special or extraordinary expenses are claimed both parents are required to provide income information to the court. Generally speaking, the court will consider:
- if the expense is necessary for the child and in keeping with their best interests
- if the expense is reasonable given the income of both parents
- how such an expense would have been treated before the parents’ separation
If allowed, special or extraordinary expenses are then divided between the parents proportionate to their incomes.
Either parent may claim that paying or receiving the Table amount would cause undue hardship. When either parent claims undue hardship, both parents must file household income information with the court.
Generally speaking, the courts have considered undue hardship to mean excessive or exceptional hardship, but determining exactly what that means can be difficult. The type of situations that can lead to undue hardship include situations involving an unusually large debt load, an ill or disabled child, support payments to other individuals, or high travel costs involved to visit the child.
To determine a claim of undue hardship the court looks at the above factors and the income of both households – not just the income of both parents. If income information for other household members is not provided, the court may impute income for those individuals. The court will then compare the standard of living of each household. A parent’s claim of undue hardship will only be established if their household has a lower standard of living than the other parent and the other criteria are met. If undue hardship is established child support payments may be different than the Table amount.
Child 18 or Over
Under the guidelines older children who are still dependent on their parents may be entitled to child support. The types of situations that can give rise to this include full-time attendance at school, disability, or other reason that prevents the child from becoming independent. Child support payments in these situations may be different than the Table amount. Among other things, the court will generally consider what, if any, contribution the child should make towards their own support and what arrangements would have been made if the parents were still together.
Some parenting arrangements may impact how the child support Tables are applied.
Split Parenting Time
The Tables are intended for situations where the parenting arrangement has the children living with one parent most of the time. If some of the children live most of the time with one parent and other children live most of the time with the other parent, the income of both parents will be considered in determining the child support amount. If the amounts payable by each parent don’t cancel one another out the amounts can be set-off against one another. Let’s look at an example:
Anita and Ray have three children. Two of the children live primarily with Anita and the third child lives primarily with Ray. Anita earns $22,000 per year and Ray earns $34,000 per year. Under the child support Tables Ray would pay $494 per month to Anita for support of the two children that live primarily with her and Anita would pay $178 per month to Ray for the support of the third child that resides primarily with him. In this case Ray will pay Anita $316, being the difference between the two amounts.
Shared Parenting Time
Under the guidelines if each parent cares for their child 40% or more of the time the amount of child support ordered will take both parents’ income into account. Accordingly, both parents must file income information.
The starting point is usually based on the Table amount each parent would pay. The amounts are then set-off against one another. However, this is only the starting point and the court will go on to consider any increased costs for this type of parenting arrangement and the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of both parents and the child(ren).
When considering the increased costs the court will consider that the total cost of looking after a child when parenting time is shared almost equally between the parents could be more because the child in effect has two homes. The court will look at the actual amounts each parent spends to provide for the child while in their care.
When considering the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of the parents and the child, the court can consider many different things. The court may consider things like the ability of each parent to cover the increased costs of this type of parenting arrangement and the standard of living the child has in each household. Let’s look at the following example:
Tom and Betty have one child together. The child spends 3 days each week with Tom and the remaining 4 with Betty. Tom earns $52,000 annually and Betty earns $38,000 annually. Using the child support Tables Tom would pay Betty $423 per month, while Betty would pay Tom $302 per month. The difference between the two amounts equals $121. So, before other considerations are factored in, we have Tom paying Betty $121 per month. The court would then go on to consider further adjustments that would reflect the increased costs of having a child living with each parent close to equal amounts of time and other relevant considerations.
A person who has been like a parent to a child may be required to pay support, but when determining the amount the court will consider the duty of the child’s other parents to also provide support.
A number of things may be considered when determining if a step-parent has acted as parent to the child. The court will look at how the family functioned when they were together and the nature of the relationship between the child and the step-parent. A person can be considered to have acted as a parent to a child even if they did not adopt the child. Things that can be considered include whether:
- the child participated in activities with the step-parent’s family like their own child would
- the step-parent provided for the child financially
- the step-parent disciplined the child
- the step-parent represented themselves as the child’s parent to the child and to others in the community
The child’s relationship with their biological parent will also be considered.
If the court determines that a step-parent has acted like a parent to the child they will take into account the biological parent’s duty to support the child when considering the amount the step-parent should pay for child support. The court does not need to simply subtract the amount the biological parent is obligated to pay from the amount the step-parent would be obligated to pay under the Child Support Guidelines. The determination will depend on the facts of the case.
Income Over $150,000
The Tables for child support end at income of $150,000 annually. For incomes above this amount a mathematical formula is used to determine the amount of child support payable under the guidelines. Unless a court finds that paying this amount would be inappropriate, the amount ordered will be determined using this formula.
If the court considers the formula amount to be inappropriate, the court will start with the Table for the first $150,000. The court will then add an appropriate amount considering the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the children and the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the support of the children. Because the court may consider the financial ability of both parents, income information from both parents is required.