Generally, the Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) establish an amount of support. The Guidelines use income to determine this amount. For this reason, income disclosure is a critical component of calculating support obligations. Click here to determine potential support obligations.
In the case of a shared parenting arrangement, then offsetting Guideline support obligations may apply. This will address the additional cost of maintaining two households. Offsetting support obligations arise when neither parent has the child for more than 60% of the time.
If applicable, an offsetting amount of support is the difference between each parent’s Guideline amount. Support proceeds with the higher earning parent paying the difference in the Guideline amount to the lower earning parent. Payment is made on a monthly basis.
This is not an absolute rule and a number of exceptions exist. The courts use child support orders to maintain the same standard of living in both households. This sometimes warrants an amount of support that is greater or lower than a straight offset amount.
Parents also have an obligation to contribute to special or extraordinary expenses for the children. While some expenses are covered by Guideline support payments, additional fees may apply. These will generally require contributions in proportion to the relative incomes of the parents. This includes expenses such as school trips, extracurricular activities, orthodontics, post-secondary education, or other expenses for the child.
In cases involving a claim for spousal support, child support takes precedence. It must be paid first, before determining if any money is payable as spousal support.
Where the parties have exchanged accurate income disclosure, the Guidelines take the uncertainty out of support calculations. Generally income tax returns and notices of assessment provide the starting point. The issue of income can take on added complexity for self employed individuals.
A court will sometimes impute income for support purposes. This happens when actual income is likely higher than a party’s reported income. Section 19 of the Guidelines sets out the relevant principles.