During a divorce or legal separation, parents have a continued obligation to support their children financially. While most parents are committed to meeting this legal duty, disagreements will often arise when determining the amount of child support payable, establishing the payor’s income, enforcement of payments, and calculating support where parties have shared parenting.
Whether you are paying child support or receiving it, it is crucial to understand your legal rights in this matter. At Forum Law, we understand the nuances of child support and the options available to resolve your concerns. Whether you are in the midst of a separation or require help modifying or enforcing child support orders, our team can provide insightful guidance and solutions to your specific circumstances.
Who is Obligated to Pay Child Support
Child support is payments made from one parent to another to support a child. Child support is the right of the child, and cannot be opted out of. A parent can be the biological mother or father, an adoptive parent, or someone who “acts in place of a parent,” such as a step-parent.
If a step-parent has been acting as a parent and financially supporting the stepchild, child support obligations could continue even after the relationship with the biological parent has ended. This applies to spouses who were legally married or living in an Adult Interdependent Partnership.
A biological parent would have a legal duty to support his / her child, even if he / she were never married to, lived with, or had an ongoing relationship with his child’s other parent. If a father denies that he is the biological father, he will have to prove it to the court by providing a blood or DNA test. If he refuses, a court may assume he is the biological father.
Determining Child Support
In Alberta, if you are divorced or have filed for divorce, child support is determined using the Federal Child Support Guidelines. For all unmarried parents, the Alberta Child Support Guidelines apply.
There are two general types of child support, a base amount (section 3 support) for day-to-day expenses, and another amount for special or extraordinary expenses (section 7 expenses). The base amount is paid monthly and is contingent on the parenting arrangement. When parenting is shared, and in some circumstances, child support could be calculated using each parent’s base support amount and the parent with the higher income will pay the difference between the two amounts as an off-set. This is referred to as “section 9 support”.
The Government of Canada determines the base amount of child support a parent must pay by considering the following factors:
- The number of children;
- The province or territory where the paying parent lives; and
- The paying parent’s before-tax annual income.
The Child Support Table Look-Up can be helpful to determine the base amount. However, additional professional guidance is often required.
Special expenses are not included in the base amount and are typically shared proportionately based on both parents’ incomes.
For an expense to qualify as a special expense, a court will consider whether the expense is necessary, if it is reasonable considering the family’s income, and whether the expense is ongoing. Special expenses include things like:
- Extracurricular activities;
- Post-secondary education expenses;
- Daycare or after school care fees; and
- Uninsured medical expenses.
These are just some examples.
Support as Your Separation Progresses
Change is inevitable as your family moves on after a divorce or separation. Therefore, you are entitled to modify the amount of child support according to changes in your income, living situation, and the child(ren)’s needs. Additionally, if you are experiencing short-term financial hardships, the court may reduce your child support obligation. Our lawyers can help you make adjustments as necessary.
Payor’s Income is Unclear
A payor’s income is not always clear and as simple as looking at their paystubs or income tax returns. For example, some people are paid through corporations they own and control, intentionally under-employing themselves in order to avoid higher child support orders against them, or are making “secret” or undisclosed income. Our family law lawyers know what do if a payor’s income is not clear, which could involve asking the Court to “impute” a payor’s income based on a variety of factors.
If ignored or improperly managed, financial battles over child support can escalate out of control. Our family law lawyers have extensive experience on such matters and are dedicated to protecting the rights of children and families and advocating for their best interests. Fill out the contact form below to schedule a consultation.