Calgary Child support special expenses disputes deal with the necessity and reasonableness of Calgary child support special expenses and extraordinary expenses. But how are Calgary child support special expenses classified and shared between separated parents? In today’s blog, senior Calgary child support lawyer Peter Graburn of MacLean Law’s Calgary Headquarters explains the rules for how Calgary special and extraordinary child support expenses are dealt with.
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Few principles in family law are as clear as that regarding child support: child support is the right of the child and the duty of both parents to pay. But does this mean all Calgary child support special expenses for a child must be paid by both separated patents? – No.
There are 2 types of child support set out in the Federal Child Support Guidelines (and corresponding provincial legislation): Section 3 Base Support (the ‘table amount’), to cover everyday expenses for the child (ie. food, clothing and shelter), and: Section 7 Extraordinary Expenses (‘special expenses’), being other expenses incurred in raising of children. But do separated parents (and particularly the non- custodial parent who does not necessarily make the decision about these other expenses) have to share in the cost of these other Calgary child support special expenses?
Calgary Section 7 Extraordinary Expenses Lawyers
But what are these ‘other’ expenses? There is no list as to what qualifies as an extraordinary, ‘special’ expense for any particular family. That’s the point – what is ‘extraordinary’ and for one family may not be extraordinary for another family. Fortunately, Section 7(1) of the Child Support Guidelines sets out general categories of these other Calgary child support special expenses that may be required to be shared between separated parents, including:
- childcare expenses;
- (the child’s portion of) medical and dental insurance premiums;
- health-related (ie. medical and dental) expenses (not covered by insurance);
- extraordinary school expenses;
- post-secondary educational expenses, and;
- extraordinary extracurricular activities expenses.
Aren’t They Included in the “Table Amount”?
But aren’t some of these expenses ordinary, common expenses for some families – shouldn’t some of these be included in the “table amount”? – Yes. The Child Support Guidelines were designed to create simplicity and uniformity in child support awards while ensuring that the basic ordinary costs of raising children are being met. This is recognized by Section 7(1.1) of the Guidelines, which provides that for school and extracurricular expenses to be classified as “extraordinary”, they must be either:
- expenses that are higher than the (custodial) parent can reasonably cover, in light of that parent’s income (including Section 3 table or other support ), or;
- expenses that aren’t higher than the (custodial) parent can reasonably cover but that are extraordinary taking into account:
- the income of that parent;
- the nature and number of programs and extracurricular activities;
- any special needs and talents of the child(ren);
- the overall cost of the programs and activities, and;
- any other relevant factor.
As the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench confirmed [McKinnon (1998), LL v. GB (2008)]:
“Section 7 expenses must be “extraordinary” because ordinary extra-curricular activities are subsumed in the table amount. Child support levels were designed with the average family in mind and include health, school and extra-curricular expenses except when these expenses become extraordinary.”
Reasonable and Necessary
Furthermore, not only must Section 7 “special” expenses be over and above the normal, ordinary expenses of the average family in raising children covered by Section 3 “table” child support (ie. extraordinary), they must also be necessary for the child, reasonable relative to the parents’ joint incomes, and consistent with pre-separation spending [section 7(1) of the Guidelines). As the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench stated [Albo (2006)]:
“Merely describing an expense as “extraordinary” will not automatically entitle a claimant to the amount sought. The Court must still consider whether the expense is reasonably necessary for the benefit of the children, whether the expense is reasonable relative to the parties’ joint income post-separation, and the Court must consider the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation.”
Finally, Section 7 extraordinary expenses are discretionary – the Court has broad discretion to determine whether a particular expense qualifies as a ‘special expense’ for a particular child of a particular family. As the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench stated [Johnson (2004)]:
“Special expenses are discretionary… This means that the extraordinary expense must be reasonable, necessary and affordable before it will be ordered. Section 7 orders are the exception not the rule since the objectives of the guidelines would be undermined if courts routinely deviate from the presumptive adequacy of the Table amounts.”
Child support special expenses that are/are not Section 7s?
So what are/are not Section 7 Extraordinary, ‘special” expenses? As said above – it depends on the particular family. Childcare (ie. daycare, before/after school care, and babysitting, but not all expenses) to allow a parent to work outside the family home is usually considered a Section 7 extraordinary expense. Necessary health-related (ie. medical/dental) costs – obviously. School and extracurricular activities are more difficult to determine but may include private schools, tutoring and particular sports and activities (depending on the specific abilities/needs of the child, the cost of the activity, and the financial means of the parents). Driver training and licencing, school uniforms, public transit – probably not (again, depending on the particular family).
As indicated in my previous article, the tables contained in the Child Support Guidelines have mostly taken the fight out of base Section 3 (ie. “food, clothing & shelter”) child support. But these tables were designed to be just that: a base for child support, not a cap. This often means disagreements between separated parents regarding financial support of their children has focussed on the additional Calgary child support special expenses “extraordinary” (Section 7) expenses. But proving any particular expense qualifies as a Section 7 Extraordinary expense to be shared between parents is not always easy – the onus is on the parent seeking contribution for the expense (by producing details of the activity, the need for the expense, incomes of the parties, etc.).
Calgary Child Support Special Expenses
Working out the payment of the extraordinary expenses of raising children between separated parents is always the best way to deal with these (sometimes high) costs. But separated spouses cannot always come to this agreement. Calgary Extraordinary Child Care Expense Lawyers assist their clients to understand which extraordinary expenses may (or may not) qualify as special expenses and guide their clients through the sometimes complex Court process to determine which parent should be paying these extraordinary special expenses.