Many clients often seek legal advice when attempting to collect child support from a former partner or spouse.
While complex issues can arise necessitating the need for a lawyer, many times the parties themselves can come to an agreement of the appropriate amount as long as they are willing to co-operate and communicate.
The Federal Child Support Guidelines were set up in 1997 and set out a simply and accurate method to calculate the appropriate base amount of child support that is to be paid by the parent who does not have child custody.
These amounts are set out in table form and can be located at www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/fcy-fea/lib-bib/pub/guide/pdf/guide.pdf.
The first step in determining the appropriate amount payable is to determine paying parent’s income. This is generally done by examining their most recent tax return and T4 statement. In matters that involve self-employed individuals or individuals with farming income, it is recommended that you seek the assistance of a lawyer as this can become much more complex, especially if the paying parent is attempting to hide income.
Once you have determined the income (generally located on line 150 of an individual’s income tax return) to the nearest $100, you can use the table to locate that amount and the number of children and find the applicable monthly child support payment.
For example, an individual making $75,000 with two children would owe $1,082 per month.
The amounts located in the tables are based on economic studies of average spending on children in families at different income levels in Canada.
If both parents share equal time with the child or they have a split custody arrangement, such as the parties have two children and each has one child living with them, then you will need both parents’ income to determine what each would pay to the other. Since it is likely one parent will earn more than the other, the higher earner will have to pay the difference to the other.
The second step will be to determine the extraordinary expenses.
These may include things such as health and dental costs, child-care costs and the cost of extracurricular activities.
These expenses are separate from the base child support and must be split proportionally between the parents.
This means if Spouse A earns $75,000 and Spouse B earns $25,000, Spouse A would pay 75 per cent of all applicable extraordinary expenses and Spouse B would pay 25 per cent.
These expenses often need to be agreed upon and receipts provided in a timely fashion as to ensure that the parent making the claims is not abusing the process.
Once the above has been determined, you should still proceed in having the terms entered as a Court Order to ensure it has an element of enforceability.
Parents can attempt to agree to a number that is different from the one stated in the Federal Child Support Guidelines, however, the courts have the ultimate say, and may deny your agreement and have the guideline amount entered instead.
The guidelines are in place to ensure that child support is easily determined and ensures that children are properly looked after.
The guidelines also offer a quick reference so that parents may adjust the amount payable each year as incomes change, thus eliminating the need to rack up extra and unnecessary legal fees.
Legally Speaking appears every second week in LIFE. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific legal problem should consult a lawyer. This week’s column was written by David Brant, of the Red Deer law firm Duhamel Manning Feehan Warrender Glass. Brant can be reached at 343-0812 or at www.reddeeraltalaw.com.