Every parent is obliged to provide financial support for his or her children. When the parents separate, or if the parents never lived together, these obligations will usually take the form of regular, monthly child support payments. Child support is a right that belongs to the child. It arises immediately upon separation, regardless of whether the parents have made a formal agreement with respect to child support or not.
The amount of child support that will be paid is usually dependent on two factors: the time that the child spends with each parent, and the income of the paying parent. The parents will usually also both contribute to the child’s special and extraordinary expenses, such as health care and education expenses. Your lawyer will be able to calculate the monthly amount of child support and each parent’s contribution to the children’s special and extraordinary expenses.
In a situation where the child spends most of their time with one parent, the other parent is presumptively required to pay support according to the Tables in the Child Support Guidelines. The parent’s child support obligation is determined based on their gross income at Line 150 of their Income Tax Return for the previous year, and the number of children who are being supported. Parents can agree to depart from the Child Support Guidelines, but the financial arrangements must be reasonable and in the best interests of the child. The court will refuse to grant a divorce if there are children involved and the parents have not made reasonable financial arrangements for their support.
If a child spends more than 40% of their time with each parent (referred to as “shared custody”), the Tables no longer presumptively apply. A court making a support order is instead directed to consider the amount set out in the Tables for each spouse, the increased cost of the shared custody arrangements, and the conditions, means, needs, and circumstances of each spouse and of the children. Typically, the child support obligation is calculated for each parent and the amounts will offset. The net amount will be paid to the parent with the lower monthly support obligation.
In some situations, the Table amount of support is inappropriate, and other child support arrangements must be made which are reasonable and in the best interests of the child. Examples include situations where the paying parent is self-employed and their Line 150 income is not the best way to determine their support obligation, or where a parent is intentionally unemployed or is earning less than he or she is capable of. There are some situations where it is appropriate to depart from the Child Support Guidelines, but these situations can be complicated, and are something that needs to be addressed with your lawyer.