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The Basics of Child Support

Dependent children have a right to child support from their parents.

The courts may require a person who is not the biological parent of a child, but who has stood in the place of a parent, to support that child.

Child support is mandatory in Ontario. The parent with whom the child primarily resides is entitled to a basic or a Table amount to compensate him or her for money spent on the day-to-day care of the child. The Table amount is determined on the basis of two factors: the income of the payor (the person who is paying support) and the number of children that he or she has. Each province and territory has a separate Table in order to determine this amount. The applicable Table is the one for the province in which the payor is resident at the time of the application or at the time of determination if the payor has moved. If the payor resides outside of Canada, the applicable Table is the one for the province in which the recipient parent ordinarily resides.

In addition to the basic amount, a parent may have an obligation to pay for section 7 expenses, (also known as special expenses), for the child. According to section 7(1) of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, examples of some of these expenses include the portion of the medical and dental insurance attributable to the child and expenses for post-secondary education.

In addition to the expenses listed above, the Guidelines also identify “extraordinary expenses”, being extracurricular activities for the children. One of the issues regarding extraordinary expenses is that it is difficult to ascertain the nature and extent of those expenses considered ordinary and captured in the tabled amounts as against those that are extraordinary.

Once an expense is deemed to be extraordinary or special, the court must determine who pays what share of the expense. The guiding principle is that the expense is to be shared by the parties in proportion of their respective incomes. If the child is able to contribute to an extraordinary expense, the court will likely order that the child do so.

There are exceptions to the above-noted scheme of child support. For example, if a parent earns more than $150,000.00 annually, judges have the discretion to depart from the presumptive Table amount. In this case, the parent seeking an order that departs from the Table amount bears the onus. The lifestyle of the family when it was intact is a relevant consideration in this determination. However, the court will not easily deviate from the Table amount. According to Francis v. Baker, income must greatly exceed the $150,000.00 threshold before a court will depart from the Table amount.

In addition, children may be entitled to benefit from increases to a parent’s income that occurred post-separation.