Child Support Matters
Children matter. To put significant weight behind that principle, legislation has established child support as the right of children. It cannot be waived by a parent to make a better deal with a former spouse. And it takes priority over spousal support obligations if money is tight for the payor.
To encourage parents to provide for their children after separation, 100 percent of the payment goes to benefit the children. None of the payment is remitted as taxable income.
If there is any doubt that the child support commitment will not be honoured, a judge has the discretion to refuse to grant the divorce.
And there are significant consequences to the parent who breaches an obligation to pay support. Suspension of a driver’s licence and imprisonment are two means of enforcement.
Child Support Guidelines
The Ontario Child Support Guidelines came into effect in December 1997 as a comprehensive standard for matters covering the economic wellbeing of children. Its goals are to standardize child support payments to reduce conflict between the parents and increase the efficiency of handling child support disputes.
A child entitled to receive the benefit of child support is not financially independent, unmarried, and likely still lives with a parent or guardian. The child may be over 18 years of age but, due to continued educational studies, illness, disability, or some other reason, is unable to become independent. The term “child” includes a stepchild being parented by a non-biological spouse in a blended family.
Fixed Monthly Table Amounts
There are essentially two parts to child support: the fixed, monthly table amount; and the flexible special and extraordinary expenses.
The monthly fixed amount is intended to assist with basic expenditures such as housing, clothing, food, and some activities. The amount is found in a grid or table (hence the name “table support”) where the total gross income of the payer (Line 150 of a General Ontario tax return) is cross referenced to the number of children entitled to receive support. This table amount of support is reviewed and may be recalculated annually when the parents file their income tax returns or when there is a material or significant change in a household to warrant an immediate review. The review is to ensure that all relevant factors are taken into consideration when arriving at the amount to be paid by the payor to the recipient parent or spouse.
Special and Extraordinary Expenses
The second component of child support relates to the special and extraordinary expenses which may be of limited duration and the amounts payable fluctuate. These expenses are shared between the parents or spouses in a way which is proportionate to their respective incomes. Examples of these expenses, commonly known as “section 7 expenses” owing to their statutory reference, include
- child care
- the premium differential between single and family medical and dental insurance plans
- health-related expenses which are not covered by the parents’ health insurance plan
- extraordinary expenses for remedial or gifted programs or primary or secondary school education
- post-secondary educational programs
Extraordinary expenses are defined as those child expenses which exceed what a parent or spouse can reasonably cover given the parent’s income and the table amount she or she receives from the payor. Other factors taken into consideration are the number of activities the children are enrolled in, the overall cost of the programs, and the special needs and talents of the children. Tax benefits, subsidies, grants, bursaries, and other benefits are also taken into account when assessing whether an expense is extraordinary or the table amount inappropriate. The Universal Child Care benefit is excluded from consideration.
Termination of Child Support
Child support terminates when a child
- becomes self-supporting
- ceases to be in school full time
- turns an age agreed between the parents, such as 23 years old
- completes a first post-secondary educational program, such as graduating with a trade school certificate, college diploma, or undergraduate university degree
- marries, or
Child support will not terminate if a child takes a temporary summer job residing away from a custodial parent’s home, enjoys a vacation, or attends a residential school program all the while maintaining the home base with that parent. There are a number of special circumstances which may be applicable in your situation.