The nature of my practice means that I spend a lot of time delivering tough news to my clients. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as telling my client that they should not spend more money arguing about who gets a piece of furniture than it is worth (really – they were arguing about a hutch). Sometimes, it’s a matter of explaining that life is going to get just a bit more expensive than originally
I recently had an initial consult with a man we’ll call “Mr. Smith” (not his real name). We were discussing how his regular child support payments would be calculated based on his income and the amount of children he had – three – aged 2, 4 and 5, who were living primarily with their mother. I explained that there was something called the Child Support Guidelines, and there was a Table which listed various incomes in increments of $100.00 on the left, and the amount of children at the top. Mr. Smith would need to find his income on the left and locate the amount of child support he would have to pay if he had three children. I told him that he could also figure out the amount using any one of the available online calculators to determine his child support obligation (a good one: http://www.lisagelman.com/child-support-calculator/). Mr. Smith was furiously taking notes about how his child support obligation would be calculated. His eyebrows creased at the amount. He then he looked up at me with hopeful eyes and said “That’s it, right? That’s all I have to pay for?”
Child support covers the children’s basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter. However, there are many child-related expenses that the law would consider to be “special or extraordinary”, and would go beyond what is covered under regular child support payments.
The law classifies an expense to be “special or extraordinary” and outside of the scope of regular child support payments if the expense is necessary, in the child’s best interests and is reasonable considering the parents’ incomes and the standard of living of the parents prior to separation.
What are these extra expenses? Section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines lists the following as “special or extraordinary” expenses (with a non-exhaustive list of examples of each type of expense).
1. Child care expenses – ex: daycare, nanny, before-and-after school care.
2. The portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child – If you have medical, dental and extended health benefits available to you through your place of employment, or private insurance, the portion of this expense that is attributable to the children can be shared between the parties.
3. Health related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100.00 annually – ex: braces and other orthodontics, counseling, glasses and contact lenses, therapy.
4. Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education – ex: private school tuition, religious school tuition, tutoring, after school programs.
5. Expenses for post-secondary education – ex: rent (if the child resides away from home for school), tuition, books, supplies.
6. Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities – ex: rep level sports, activities where the equipment or the cost of attending is particularly high. This especially holds true if the child was involved in these sports or activities prior to the parents’ separation.
These “special or extraordinary” expenses are usually divided between the parents proportionate to their respective incomes. This means that if one parent earns $30,000.00 and the other parent earns $60,000.00, the parent earning $30,000.00 would pay 33% of the expense, while parent who earns double will pay double the expense, or 67% of the expense.
It is recommended that you consult with a lawyer to try to determine the actual amount of an expense that each parent should be expected to pay. Certain expenses may allow for one parent to claim a tax deduction or obtain tax credits or other benefit which should be considered. The other parent should pay the net-after-tax cost of the expense.
There are other expenses that may not be considered special or extraordinary expenses, such as a child’s cell phone bills or gym membership, for example. Parents can agree on how to pay for them, and may even agree that a child should partially contribute to these expenses.
If you’re curious about “special or extraordinary” expenses, I recommend that you contact a family lawyer that can provide you with some guidance.
“The information in this article is not intended as legal advice, and should not be considered as such.
Family law varies from province to province and the outcome of your situation may also vary depending
on the facts of your case. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a lawyer with respect to your
family law matter. This article is for educational purposes only.”