Having arrangements in place to provide financial support for your child’s needs can ease some of the pain of separation for all concerned.
It helps if you understand the process you need to go through to confirm who needs to pay what and when.
What are the laws that govern child support in Alberta and how do you calculate payments? How do you modify child support arrangements if circumstances change in the future?
Jennings Family Law in Calgary is here to assist with all your questions about child support to help reduce the stress and confusion for families.
Child support payments are funds transferred from one parent to the other parent to assist with the raising of a child or children from the relationship (the same rules apply to marriages and common-law relationships).
Generally, the parent with whom the child lives receives financial support from the other parent, though this is not always the case.
The amount of child support is decided by the court according to the needs of the child and must be paid according to the court order.
Unlike with spousal support, you cannot “opt-out” of child support in a separation agreement. Prenuptial agreements are also not permitted to cover matters of child custody or support as the best interests of the child must be assessed at the time of separation.
The child support funds are designed to help with the day-to-day needs of the child, such as food and clothing, as well as educational and medical needs.
The required payments are generally a regular monthly amount, though lump-sum payments may also be involved.
In Alberta, there are two types of child support:
Alberta’s Family Law Act stipulates that “all decisions involving the child be made in the child’s ‘best interests.’”
“Best interests” are those that preserve the child’s “physical, psychological and emotional safety”.
The court generally prefers that parents reach mutually beneficial arrangements for the upbringing of their children but if that is not possible, a judge will decide.
Under the Family Law Act in Alberta, parents have a legal obligation to financially support their child.
You can calculate child support amounts using some basic guidelines covered below – or ask the court to decide.
Note that, depending on your situation, you may have been granted a support order under older legislation such as the Parentage and Maintenance Act or the Domestic Relations Act. While these provincial legislations have been superseded by the Family Law Act in Alberta, child support orders granted under them still apply and can be enforced.
Alberta’s Family Law Act includes a set of Child Support Guidelines.
They are referred to as “guidelines” but are actually rules that judges must follow when calculating child support payments in court. So, it is important to be familiar with them.
These guidelines for child support are federal laws contained in the Divorce Act. They are designed to standardize the process for calculating child support regardless of where you live in Canada and the nature of your relationship with the other parent.
There are online calculators available to assist with this but a child support lawyer at Jennings Family Law in Calgary will be able to help you calculate the amount according to the guidelines if required.
The amount of child support due is based on two main factors:
Sometimes this is a relatively simple calculation but it can become more complex.
Where parents have shared 50/50 custody (even if the child spends more time with one parent than the other) you can calculate the amount of child support by netting the difference between the incomes of each parent.
Payment of the resulting amount goes to the lower income-earning parent.
Where there are extraordinary expenses to consider, child support may be more disputed between parents.
These “Section 7 extraordinary child support” payments are in addition to the regular living expenses (the base child support amount).
They are generally shareable between both parents in proportion to their incomes. If you add together the combined income of both parents and work out that your share of that income is 60 percent, then you will pay 60 percent of these shared expenses.
With these extra expenses, you cannot simply enter numbers into a calculator and arrive at a figure and, because of potential disputes, it’s usually best to get legal assistance.
Sometimes, circumstances change. In many ways, it is unrealistic to expect that, if a couple separates when their child is a baby, the same child support requirements will apply when he or she is a teenager.
The law allows for modifications to child support. However, these require you to take specific steps and to meet specific requirements before changes to the child support order will apply.
Speak to your child support lawyer at Jennings Family Law if you need to set up or modify a child support arrangement.