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Child Support in Ontario

In Ontario, every parent has a legal obligation to support their children until they are eighteen years old. If they are over eighteen years old, this obligation may continue if the child is enrolled in a full-time education program or unable to withdraw from parental care due to illness or disability.

The Guidelines and Table Support

You will often hear the term “table support” used interchangeably with child support. “Table support” refers to the child support that is payable to the parent who has physical custody of the child for the majority of the time. The amount of table support is prescribed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines or the provincial Child Support Guidelines.

If you are making a claim for child support as part of a divorce proceeding, you would make that claim under the Federal Divorce Act and the Federal Child Support Guidelines would apply. If you were in a common-law relationship and wish to make a claim for child support, then you would apply under the provincial Child Support Guidelines pursuant to the Family Law Act. The Ontario provincial Child Support Guidelines essentially mirror the federal Child Support Guidelines.

In both cases, child support is a formula that is determined by the number of children, the province or territory where the paying parent lives, and the payor’s gross annual income. You can look up the child support tables here.

Fair Standard of Support for Children

The objective of child support is to ensure a fair standard of support for all children in Canada so that they benefit from the financial means of both parents. The Table amount is considered a reasonable sum to pay based upon the financial situation of the payor. This lends efficiency and predictability to the family court process by making the calculation of child support more objective. In certain cases, the courts may deviate from the Table amount but there is a rebuttable presumption that a payor should pay the Table amount of child support. If you want the court to make an order for child support that is different from the amount prescribed by the Guidelines then you would need to meet the test for undue hardship. It is a two-part test that applies in cases where a paying parent’s obligation to pay child support would result in hardship that is exceptional or excessive. Typically, this occurs if one parent has other dependents they are financially responsible for, they have high levels of debt, or the cost of exercising their parenting time is so high that it would result in a lower standard of living compared to the other parent.

Child Support depends on the Parenting Time Schedule

Whether or not Table child support applies in your situation is dependent upon the parenting time schedule. For example, if the children are in one parent’s care for over 60% of the time, then Table child support is owed by the other parent (the “non-residential” parent) to the residential parent.

However, just because the other parent does not have the child in their care for the majority of the time does not necessarily mean that no child support is payable. There are parenting time arrangements where a child support obligation still arises. This occur when the parents share parenting time in nearly equal proportions.

Shared Parenting Time

If the parents share parenting time equally or nearly equally such that one parent has the child for at least 40% of the time, then a set-off formula applies. In this case, both parents calculate what they would owe the other parent if the child were in the other parent’s care for the majority of the time. The parent who has the higher obligation for child support would pay the difference between the two Table support calculations.

Split Parenting Time

Another parenting time arrangement is when a family with two or more children are “split” between the parents such that one child (or more) lives with one parent and the other child (or more) lives with the other parent. In this scenario, as in the share parenting scenario, the parents would calculate what they owe the other parent in accordance with Guidelines and the parent who has the higher obligation would pay the difference between them.

Special or Extraordinary Expenses “aka S. 7 Expenses”

On top of child support, parents are also required to pay for their children’s special or extraordinary expenses that are not covered by the basic Table amount. In order to meet the definition of a “special or extraordinary expense” as set out in the Guidelines, it must be shown that the expense is necessary because it is in the child’s best interests and that it is reasonable when considering the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation. In order to be considered extraordinary the cost of the expense must be more than the parent incurring the cost can reasonably pay based on their income and the amount of child support they receive. Another relevant factor is any special talent or skill that the child has.

Not every expense meets the definition of a special or extraordinary expense.

Expenses that do meet the definition or special or extraordinary

  • child care expenses for the residential parent that are required by reason of employment, an illness, a disability, or educational requirements
  • health care expenses not covered by insurance that exceed $100.00 per year (i.e., orthodontics, therapy, medication, glasses, hearing aid)
  • post-secondary tuition
  • extraordinary expenses related to the child’s educational program that cannot be covered by child support (i.e., the cost of housing while attending school)
  • medical or dental insurance premiums paid to cover the child

Expenses that do not meet the definition or special or extraordinary

  • driving school lessons
  • extraordinary expenses that are disproportionate to the family’s spending patterns (i.e., horseback riding lessons for a family where the combined family income is $60,000)

There are different ways to share the cost of special or extraordinary expenses. Parents can either consent to split the cost equally such that each will pay 50% of the expenses or they can pay in proportion to their incomes. In the latter case, one parent may incur the expense and the other parent will reimburse the other parent for their pro-rata share.

Here is a simple example:

Cassandra makes $50,000.00 while Peter makes $100,000.00. Their combined family income is $150,000.00. Because Cassandra’s income is one-third of the combined family income, she will be responsible for paying 33% of the child’s expenses while Peter will be responsible for paying 67%.

The Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario

Parents can pay child support directly to the other if they choose. However, if a parent consistently misses payments or does not pay on time, it may be better to have the payments go through the Family Responsibility Office. In order to do this, you must obtain a court order which is then automatically filed with FRO.

FRO does not determine the amount of child support or have any involvement in litigating the issues. The role of FRO is simply to interpret the court order and enforce the support, usually by garnishing the payor’s wages. If you need to change the amount of the order, you have to go back to court and apply for it.

 

 

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