There’s so many components to child support – this blog is intended to share the basics of child support.
Give us the basics of how child support is calculated
Base Support – in this post we’ll focus on this base support. This is the part of child support that covers food, clothing, and shelter. It’s the amount that most people refer to as their “monthly” support that they pay.
Extras – this is another category of child support under Section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines, and will be the focus of Part 2. Under this section, parents will share certain categories of expenses between them in addition to their base support.
Let’s get further into this base support. How is that calculated?
We use the Child Support Guidelines as a way to calculate all child support. If you’re married or living in Saskatchewan, we use the “Federal” Child Support Guidelines, and if you’re unmarried in Alberta we use the “Alberta” Child Support Guidelines. They are very similar.
There are 4 components to calculating base child support:
- Income of the paying parent
- Province of residence of the paying parent
- Number of Children
- Parenting arrangements / schedule
How is income calculated?
It is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines again – shall we say, it can get complicated.
If a paying parent is a T4 income earner as an employee, it can be simple if their T4 income is the same as their Line 15000 on their income tax return.
Where it can get complicated is where a paying parent earns income from other sources like if they own their own business, they’re a farmer, or somehow their income tax return doesn’t show their full income-earning potential.
In those cases, we need to look further than just the personal income tax return and look to income from all sources to figure out what income for the purpose of child support calculations would be.
There are loads of people who use the online support calculators to calculate their child support obligation – and while this may be effective in very basic cases, it can be ineffective where the calculation of income is more complicated.
What about the parenting schedule impacts child support?
There’s 3 different ways that scheduling can impact child support.
There’s one set of calculations where the children live primarily with one parent – that is where the children reside over 60% of the time with one parent. For that calculation it’s the parent who has under 40% of the time that pays this base child support to the parent who has over 60% of the time.
There’s another calculation that happens where there’s something called “shared parenting” – this is where each parent has more than 40% of the time with the kids – it’s often what is dubbed as somewhat equal parenting time.
For this calculation, there’s another set of rules for how support is calculated, but very basically we calculate what each parent would pay to the other if they had the children primarily, and the difference between the two numbers and have the higher income earner pay to the lower income earner the difference between the two. There are many complicating factors to this that may cause us to deviate from this, but at its core this is the formulaic approach to child support under a shared parenting arrangement
Yet again, there’s another set of rules where parents have what’s called “split parenting” where one child may be living with one parent and another child may be living primarily with the other parent – so the children are “split”
Can child support be calculated ourselves, or do we need lawyers?
There is an online calculator through the Government of Canada website.
Two of the 4 components of support are easy – province of residence of the paying parent & number of children.
The other two – parenting schedule of the children as in percentage of time with each parent, and income for the purpose of child support – these 2 items may be more difficult to figure out with the online calculator.
Percentage of time is based on an annual calculation – if you are with your children more than 40% of the time over the course of a year, then you will be into the shared parenting calculations as set out above. Otherwise, you’ll use the basic calculations.
Income can be simple for a T4 employee who hasn’t changed their employment or their income level in quite some time, but it can get more complicated where there’s significant increases or decreases to income level, or where there’s self-employment income or income through a closely-held corporation.
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