Calculating Child Support

Separating parents continue to be responsible for meeting the financial needs of their children. In most cases this means that the primary caregiver to the children receives child support from the other parent. In the simplest of cases, this support consists of two parts: base child support and contribution to special expenses.

Types of Child Support:

Base child support is intended to pay for all of the basic necessities of the children, including food, clothing, shelter costs, utilities, and transportation.

Special expenses refers to certain expenses of the children that go beyond their basic necessities, such as daycare/babysitting costs, medical and dental expenses that exceed insurance coverage, private school tuition or tutoring, university or college tuition, or costs for participating in sports, music lessons, etc.

A different formula is used to calculate each of these parts of child support.

Child support may be calculated differently if a child is over the age of majority (18 years old in Alberta) but still needs support or if the parents share the parenting time for the children on an approximately equal basis.

How to Calculate Base Child Support:

In the simplest case (child under age of majority and one primary parent):

Usually in this situation, the primary parent is entitled to receive support payments from the other parent (the "payor"). The amount the payor pays depends on the payor's income before taxes (income for support purposes can be different than income for tax purposes, though it is often the same), the number of children the couple has, and the province the payor lives in. The Canada Department of Justice's website provides a Child Support Table Look-Up where a person can input the above information to get the amount a payor should pay in a simple case. A court will only rarely depart from this calculated amount. In order to do so, a judge must be convinced that there are very unusual circumstances. A lawyer can help you determine if your case might qualify as one that should have a unique result.

When the parents have shared parenting:

Parents have shared parenting when each parent has the children between 40 - 60% of the time.

In this situation, base child support is calculated starting with the following:

1) Parent A will calculate the amount of base child support Parent A would pay if Parent B has primary care of the children.

2) Parent B will calculate the amount of base child support Parent B would pay if Parent A has primary care of the children.

3) The higher earning parent will have a higher amount of base child support payable. The lower earning parent will have a lower amount of base child support payable.

4) The higher earning parent will pay the difference between the two figures.

However, this "difference" or "set-off" amount that the higher earning parent pays is only the starting point in determining the amount of base child support payable in a shared parenting arrangement. The court may adjust this set-off amount depending on a number of factors including a determination of which parent is actually carrying the majority of the children's costs. The amount will be adjusted if a straight set off is not fair.

How to Calculate Special Expenses Child Support:

In general, both parents will be responsible for special expenses in proportion to their respective annual gross incomes. If Parent A earns $20,000 per year and Parent B earns $80,000 per year, with a total of $100,000 in combined incomes, Parent A will be responsible for 20% of the cost and Parent B will pay 80% of the cost. The court may adjust these amounts depending on your family's unique circumstances.

How to Calculate Total Child Support

To determine the total amount of child support you have to pay, simply add base child support payable to the proportionate share of special expenses. This amount is the total amount of child support you or your partner has to pay each month.

Consulting a Lawyer

This blog post provides only basic information on how to calculate child support. As explained, the amount of child support you or your partner has to pay really depends on your family's unique circumstances. Please consult a lawyer if you need more guidance.

By Stephanie Lo and Wayne Barkauskas

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