Child Support Guide Following Separation in Alberta As Outlined by Calagary Family Lawyers

After a couple with children separates or divorces in Alberta, child support is usually paid by one parent to the other so that the financial burden of raising the children is shared fairly.

The support is intended to contribute to the daily needs and care of a dependent child until it is no longer required—and this is a legal obligation of parents in Alberta.

Child support usually involves a fixed monthly amount (basic daily support) plus additional amounts for healthcare, education, and other extraordinary expenses.

Because of the complexities involved in child support, it helps to understand more about the federal and state child support guidelines as you plan your family’s future after separation.

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Parenting Time and its effects upon child support in Alberta

Child support is considered separately from child support in Alberta, but the two are connected. In both cases, the best interests of the child(ren) come first and agreements must be fair.

Where a child lives impacts his/her financial needs. In this respect, parenting time also has a direct effect on child support.

If a couple cannot decide on a fair divorce or separation agreement, the courts will ensure that the child’s best interests are looked after. The amount of child support awarded may depend partly on the type of parenting time awarded by the courts.

The following can be used as a guideline for various parenting time decisions, though judges have some latitude to award what’s fair in the circumstances.

Primary Parenting Time

Previously known as ‘sole custody’, primary parenting time is when a child lives primarily with one parent, the other parent will need to pay child support based on the federal guidelines found in the child support calculator. The number of children and the income of the non-custodial parent are the main factors that determine this amount.

Shared Parenting Time

Previously known as ‘shared custody’, shared parenting time is when both parents spend approximately equal time with the child. In the child support tables, parents should enter the number of children and their respective incomes. The higher-income parent will pay child support to the lower-income parent.

Split Parenting Time

Previously known as ‘split custody’, Split parenting time means that one or more children live with each parent. This custody arrangement is relatively uncommon in Alberta. In addition to the incomes of each parent, the number of children living with each of them determines who pays support to whom—and how much.

Additional child support expenses to consider

The basic support amounts are often supplemented by additional amounts (“section seven expenses”) intended to cover other aspects of the child’s upbringing, such as education (including higher education), healthcare, dental needs, child care, insurance, and extraordinary extracurricular activities such as school excursions, sports club expenses, etc.

These child support expenses are covered by both parents—usually in proportion to their respective incomes. Accordingly, if one parent earns $50,000 per year and the other earns $100,000 per year, the second parent will generally pay two-thirds of the additional expenses.

Learn More Options for Resolving Custody Outside of Court in Alberta

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Full disclosure of income when calculating child support

Before accurate child support amounts can be calculated between parents, each parent must commit to full disclosure of income. This includes:

  • A completed tax return
  • Notice of assessment
  • Documents demonstrating income for self-employed parents

If either parent is reluctant to provide full disclosure of income, the Alberta courts can order it. Child support can be adjusted at a later date if any additional information comes to light—and the offending parent may be asked to pay court and legal costs if necessary.

Modifications can also be made to child support at a later date if income changes significantly for either parent.

What income is used to determine child support in Alberta?

Sometimes, the term “income” is disputed between parents when trying to determine support. It is usually taken to mean the gross annual income of each parent as detailed in their previous year’s tax return or the current income for the year-to-date.

However, if your income fluctuates significantly from year to year or it is affected by union fees, the assessable income for child support may be reconsidered. This may also apply if a one-time lump sum or stock options are received.

With income from self-employment or where income is tax-free, this will also need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

It should also be noted that parents are not permitted to intentionally be unemployed or under-employed to avoid paying support.

What if one parent can’t afford child support?

Undue financial hardship for either the recipient or payor of support, if proven to the Alberta courts, can be taken into account when child support decisions are made.

To prove financial hardship, a parent will need to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Support is currently being paid for another child
  • Excessive costs are associated with access to the child
  • Significant repayments of debts incurred while living together or earning a living are due
  • The standard of living in the household is significantly lower than the recipient parent’s home

If financial hardship is adequately demonstrated, a judge may deviate from the standard child support guidelines outlined above.

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Child support and higher education in Alberta

Child support in Alberta standardly lasts until the age of majority (18) but if a child attends full-time or part-time education beyond secondary level at a recognized educational institution, child support may need to continue.

Many parents do this voluntarily for their children but when it becomes contested, a parent may resist making payments beyond the age of 18. Sometimes, instead of making payments to the recipient parent, payments can be made to the child directly or to the school. This is generally acceptable but should be approved by the court first.

Does a stepparent pay child support in Alberta?

Most of what we have discussed refers to the legal obligations of the biological parents of children in Alberta.

Alberta’s Family Law Act extends the parental obligation to those who are considered in loco parentis, i.e., individuals who stand “in the place of a parent” to a child. This generally includes a step-parent to a child from another relationship.

A step-parent who separates from a spouse who has a child from a previous relationship and who has been “standing in the place of a parent” for the child for several years is probably liable for child support payments.

In family law case history in Alberta, a step-parent’s obligations are typically not terminated once the relationship with the child’s biological parent dissolves. The court can order that child support be paid.

However, it should be noted that Alberta’s Family Law Act states that the obligation of a biological parent to pay child support outweighs the obligation of a person standing in the place of a parent.

These situations are generally handled by the Alberta courts on a case-by-case basis according to the circumstances.

Contact our Child support lawyers Proudly Serving Albertans

If you live in the Calgary area and need assistance with child support, the experienced lawyers at Jennings Family Law can help you. Book a case evaluation to discuss your situation.

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