Divorce in Canada: A Primer on Child Support


Child support determinations in Canada often begin with use of the Federal Child Support tables. These tables guide the determination of how much the payor parent should provide to the recipient parent.

How are the tables used? The tables use the number of children and income of payor to calculate a basic support amount. The income is either based on information from the previous year or, in some cases, the court may choose to use an average of the previous three years. Alternatively, a judge may determine a review of pay stubs would provide a more accurate estimation for use in this determination.

The custody arrangement will also impact the court's child support estimation. A shared parenting arrangement, for example, would result in a lower child support payment compared to a sole parenting arrangement. In these cases, a shared parenting arrangement that results in a parent providing primary care for the child for more than 40 percent of the time would likely result in a deviation from the basic child support calculation.

Is this determination final? No. The court can make adjustments based on various factors, including undue hardship and certain "special expenses." The court may include special expenses, also known as "add-on" or "section 7" expenses, in addition to the table amount. Examples include medical care and child care or, if deemed "extraordinary" can include secondary schooling or additional costs to cover extracurricular activities.

The requesting parent must establish these expenses as ones he or she could not afford to qualify as "extraordinary." The court uses a second test if the first is not satisfied. This test reviews the number and cost of programs the child is involved in as well as whether not the child has a special need or talent.

A divorce in Canada can include continual financial updates. These updates, either part of the divorce settlement agreement or requested in writing by a parent, provide current financial information. These updates are often received on an annual basis and can result in a request for a modification in the child support arrangement.

When does child support end? Child support payments are not indefinite. These payments generally end when the child reaches the age of majority (often 18). There are some exceptions. These can include if a child requires additional care due to disability or disease.

How can I better ensure a fair child support agreement? You can take proactive approach to better ensure a fair outcome. One example includes providing evidence to accurately reflect the circumstances. A lawyer experienced in this area of the law can discuss these and other methods to help protect your interest in this matter.