Answering your questions about child support
By Lakshani Perera | May 26, 2021
All parents have a legal duty to financially support their dependent children. Child support is calculated in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines. You can find basic information at Community Legal Education Ontario.
Child support consists of both a basic monthly amount called the “Table amount” and other additional expenses of the child called “special or extraordinary expenses” that include things like childcare, medical and dental/orthodontic costs, certain “reasonable extraordinary” expenses for extracurricular activities, and post-secondary education.
Two acts govern child support in Ontario. The first is the federal Divorce Act. It applies if the claims for child support are being made as a part of a divorce proceeding. The second is Ontario’s Family Law Act (FLA), which applies where the parties were never married or are married and are choosing to separate without a divorce. The FLA recognizes that each parent has an obligation to provide support for their children in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines to the extent that they are able to, and this is based primarily on their annual incomes and number of children who meet the definition of “child” in the legislation (and case law).
How does it work?
If one parent has the children more than 60% of the time, then only the other parent’s income will be taken into consideration when calculating support, and that parent will be the paying parent.
Child support is determined by the paying parent’s annual total income before tax, the number of children for whom support is paid, and the province or territory the paying parent lives in.
What is the “Table amount”?
There is a separate Table for each province or territory. The Table where the paying parent lives is the Table to use for figuring out the child support that must be paid to the recipient parent.
The Table shows the basic monthly amount of child support a parent should be paying to cover expenses like accommodations, clothing, food, and ordinary school supplies. This basic amount is called the “Table amount.” This Table amount is based on the gross annual income of the paying parent (which is usually – but not always – based on the income set out at line 150 of the paying parent’s income tax return or Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency) and the number of children they have to support. To figure out the Table amount of child support a paying parent should be paying, check the Child Support Table for Ontario.
It is important to know that these are general rules only, and can vary in specific circumstances.
When wouldn’t the Table amount be used?
Sometimes, there are cases where the Table amounts aren’t used. These include situations where the paying parent is experiencing undue hardship (for example, when there are unusually high expenses in relation to exercising parenting time with a child who lives somewhere else, however, undue hardship must meet a specific test according to the legislation), or a situation where the parenting time of the children is shared or split (these are also according to specific legislation and case law definitions).
The Child Support Guidelines state that courts must apply the Guideline Table amounts when determining child support for incomes under $150,000. However, if the paying parent earns more than $150,000, the court may find that a different amount is appropriate.
What is a “set-off” amount?
Shared parenting time can also have an effect. If the children are shared by the parents relatively equally (each parent has the child at least 40% of the time), a “set-off” amount can be used. Parenting time (formerly known as “access”) is usually defined as the time each parent is responsible for the child. In this situation, the amount of child support might be less than the Table amount, because both parents may be paying for a certain portion of the child’s ordinary expenses. So how is the “set-off” amount calculated? Calculating the support in a shared situation would start by first looking at the Table amount for each parent based on their gross annual incomes. The “set-off” amount is calculated by subtracting the smaller Table amount from the larger Table amount, and the higher-earning parent pays the set-off amount to the lesser-earning parent. However, for income tax purposes and other reasons, it is recommended that the parents each make the child support payment to the other that is prescribed by the Table for their income.
Set-off amounts can be increased or decreased by the court depending on factors like added costs such as extra housing or food costs incurred by one of the parents. As well, each parent’s situation, such as living with a new partner who shares expenses or having other dependents to support, may be taken into account.
The “set-off” formula can also apply to split parenting time arrangements, which is when there are two or more children, and each parent has the majority of parenting time with one or more of those children. In this situation, each parent pays the Table amount for the number of children who spend the majority of their time with the other parent.
Child support approaches and their resulting implications can be very fact-specific, so legal and tax advice should always be obtained.
What does “imputing income” mean?
“Imputing income” occurs when the judge assigns an income to a paying parent that is different from the income the paying parent claims to have, because the claimed amount is not actually a fair or accurate reflection of their income. For example, income may be imputed to a paying parent in cases where that parent does not share information about their income; where a parent is deliberately underemployed or unemployed; or where a parent is self-employed and does not report all of their income.
When does child support end?
Child support may or may not end when a child turns 18, depending on the child’s health (for example, if they have an illness or disability), or if they are in secondary or post-secondary school. Learn more about continuing or ending child support here:
- Understanding child support: When a child is no longer attending school
- If my child is in college, university or trade school, when does entitlement to child support end?
Need legal advice about child support? Contact Henderson Family Law to meet with one of our family lawyers to have your questions answered.
This content is provided as a general informational source by Henderson Family Law, and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, or establish a lawyer-client relationship. Every situation is complex and fact-specific, and appropriate advice will vary accordingly. Do not rely on this information for legal decision-making under any circumstances. Please consult with us and obtain proper advice and strategy concerning the specifics of your particular situation.