17 Facts about Child Support You Need to Know

Brian and Nicole's niece Maddy

The complexities of child support can muddy the waters during divorce proceedings. Arm yourself with the right information and you’ll be back to smooth sailing in no time.

  1. Child support is paid on a monthy basis by the parent who does not have primary care. It is intended to share the costs of raising the children between both parents.
  2. The Federal Child Support Guidelines determines the amount of child support to be paid. All you do is look it up on a chart based on the province the payer lives in, the payer’s income and the number of children. If you need help, it is best to ask a divorce lawyer.
  3. The payer’s income is their total income as indicated in their tax return at line 150. If the children reside with each parent more than 40% of the time, an adjustment to the amount of child support is possible. Normally “set off child support” is paid. Set off child support is a payment you make to your spouse based on your income and the number of children you have. Your spouse in turn also pays you according to the number of children and income, setting off one amount against the other. In the end, the person with the higher income pays some child support to the other spouse. Set off child support also applies to split custody situations where some children live primarily with you and other children live primarily with your spouse. In this case, payment is made according to the number of children in your spouse’s care and your spouse pays you according to the number of children in your care. In rare cases, it is possible to seek a reduction in child support if payment according to the Guidelines would cause “undue hardship”. This is very difficult to prove. A lawyer can assess your case and help guide you through the requirements.
  4. Self-employed people may have adjustments made to their income to determine the proper amount of child support. For example, personal expenses written off by the business may be added to their income to determine child support. Please see our separate article that focuses on this issue.
  5. Child support is not tax deductible by the payer and does not have to be claimed as income for tax purposes by the recipient.
  6. Child support can be adjusted whenever there is a material change in circumstances such as an increase in income or a change in the residence of the children.
  7. Each parent has the right to see proof of the other’s income once a year to determine whether there should be any changes to the amount of child support being paid.
  8. Child support terminates when a child reaches 18 years old unless the child is unable to become economically self-sufficient due to health issues or they are attending school on a full time basis. An exception may be a child taking a “gap year”.
  9. Child support usually ends when a child has completed their first four years of post-secondary education. In some cases, it can go beyond one post-secondary degree but this is rare.
  10. Post-secondary education costs are usually shared in proportion to your income and your spouse’s income but can be shared equally. In most cases, the child is required to share in the costs too.
  11. The costs of extracurricular activities are usually only shared if they are extraordinary. Participation in a rep hockey team, competitive swim team or teams requiring a lot of travel and expenses can be costly. These extraordinary extracurricular costs are shared in proportion to incomes but some clients agree to share the cost equally.
  12. The after-tax cost of daycare, summer camps and before and after-school care is usually shared in proportion to incomes but can be shared equally. Our lawyers have a computer program to help determine the “after-tax cost”. It deducts any government subsidies and benefits being received.
  13. Medical and health care costs (for example, dental, orthodontic, chiropractic, eye glasses) that are not covered by an extended health care insurance plan or OHIP are usually shared in proportion to incomes or shared equally.
  14. To get a divorce, the proper amount of child support must be paid according to the Federal Child Support Guidelines unless there are special benefits being received in lieu of proper child support. For example, if the payer is taking extra debts or has given an asset to the other parent, lesser child support is possible.
  15. Child Support is usually paid by post-dated cheques or electronic transfers according to the payer’s paydays.
  16. It is possible to seek child support from a step-parent who has been like a parent. The biological parents continue to be primarily responsible in paying child support.
  17. The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) will collect child support but we suggest you use FRO only if necessary, as this government agency is understaffed and often frustrating to work with. If enforcement is necessary, the FRO can suspend the payer’s driver’s license or put the payer in jail if approved by the court, so working with them can sometimes be helpful.

Your lawyer will explain how the law works and applies to your case so that you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

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