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Parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children. This is known as child support. A parent’s responsibility to provide financial support for their child can continue after separation and divorce. In fact, the obligation exists even if the child’s parents never married and never lived together.

The issue of child support can be complicated. Our family lawyer is often asked: “What does child support cover in BC?” Let’s look at some important child support issues including who pays it and what is included in child support.


Who pays child support and how much?

The answer to the question of who pays child support depends on who the children live with and how much time each parent spends with the children. When the children live with one parent most of the time, the other parent is the one who pays child support. The amount of child support is set out in the Child Support Tables established by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The amount is calculated based on the paying parent’s gross annual income, the number of children they have to support and where the paying parent lives.

If the children spend equal or close to equal time with both parents, the usual rule is that parent who has the higher income pays child support to the other parent. In these shared parenting situations, a set off approach is typically used. Each parent uses the Child Support Tables to calculate the amount they would pay to the other parent based on their gross annual income and the number of children. The difference between the two (the set-off amount) is paid by the higher earning parent to the lower earning parent.


What does child support cover in BC?

The purpose of child support is to cover the child’s daily needs and the basic costs of raising the child. Child support is the paying parent’s contribution to expenses for the child including housing costs like rent, mortgage, heat, hydro and food, clothing and regular school costs. The parent who lives with the child most of the time also contributes to the child’s daily needs and the basic costs of raising the child, but those expenses are often intermingled because the parent and the child live together.


A paying parent may also be required to contribute to other expenses over and above the basic “Table amount” of child support. These other expenses are known as “special or extraordinary expenses” or “section 7 expenses” because they are dealt with in section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The usual rule is that special or extraordinary expenses for the child are shared in proportion to each parent’s income though the parents can agree otherwise. Parents often agree to share section 7 expenses equally.


What is considered a special or extraordinary expense?

Special or extraordinary expenses are in addition to regular child support payments and can include:

  • Child care expenses (daycare, before and after school care, summer camps);

  • Medical and dental insurance premiums for the child;

  • Health-related expenses for the child that are over $100 per year and not covered by insurance (e.g., dental care, orthodontics, eyeglasses/contact lenses, counselling, prescription medication);

  • Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or education programs to meet the child’s particular needs;

  • Post-secondary education costs; and

  • Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.

The test for deciding if an expense should be covered as an extraordinary expense for education or extracurricular activities (e.g., private school tuition, hockey, competitive dance) is whether the expense is necessary and reasonable. Is the expense necessary because it is in the child’s best interest? Is the expense reasonable considering each parent’s financial circumstances and the pattern of spending before the parents separated?


Can you claim child support on taxes?

If your child support order or agreement was made after April 30, 1997, the child support you receive is not taxable and is not claimed as income and likewise, the child support being paid is not tax deductible. Child support is tax neutral to both parents.

The tax treatment of spousal support is different. Generally speaking, spousal support is taxable in the hands of the spouse who received it, and is deducted from the income of the spouse who pays it.


Do you want legal advice on your BC child support issues?

Child support is a very important issue and it can be complex especially if you have more than one child and the parenting plans are different for each of your children. If you want clear advice from an experienced BC family lawyer with respect to child support rights and obligations given your specific circumstances, contact Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation. Ms. Little's practice is exclusively devoted to issues of family law in Burnaby, Coquitlam, and New Westminster.


No matter what family law questions or issues you might be facing, you will receive attentive care and understanding at the office of Valerie M. Little. For more information about her family law office or to schedule a private in office or telephone consultation with our family lawyer, please call us today at 604-526-3333 or send in the contact us form.


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