One of the most common financial concerns of parents involved in family law litigation or going through a separation or divorce is what their monthly support obligations will be going forward. It’s helpful for people to know what their monthly child support obligations will be in order to plan the rest of their monthly expenses.
The Department of Justice has provided the public with an easy and useful online child support calculator their child support obligation under the Child Support Guidelines.
The commonly referred to “child support calculator” is known in family law as the Child Support Guidelines. There is a Federal Child Support Guideline and a Provincial Child Support Guideline. Both of those Child Support Guidelines are interpreted by family courts in a similar manner even though there might be some differences in language. There is also a “Table” that summarizes the monthly child support payable by a parent at different income levels and the number of children, which is legally “presumed” to be the amount payable for children under the age of 18 for “food, shelter and clothing” among other day-to-day personal expenses (i.e., haircuts, birthday parties, etc.).
For a parent in Ontario, the amount of child support does not change based on marital status, i.e., whether parents are unmarried, married but separated, or divorced.
How Much is Child Support?
First, you must figure out what the annual income is of the parent that has to pay child support (commonly called the “payor” of child support). The parent receiving child support is commonly called the “recipient” of child support and his or her income is not important for calculating child support (but is important for “special and extraordinary expenses” that are described in section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines) unless there are shared parenting circumstances that require “set-off” child support.
If the payor’s income is mostly from employment (in a business that they do not have an ownership interest in) then his or her annual income for child support purposes is likely easy to determine from their income tax return and notice of assessment (the form that the Canada Revenue Agency sends to taxpayers that confirms the values submitted to them on tax returns, including a taxpayer’s “total gross income” stated on line 150 of the Notice of Assessment and income tax return).
If a payor earns unreported “cash income”, is self-employed, or receives significant dividends or capital gains (which are taxed at a lower rate than employment income), or rental income then his or her income is more complicated than a simple review of their income tax return and Notice of Assessment and a family law lawyer should be consulted.
Section 21(1) of the Child Support Guidelines sets out important income information that should be exchanged between parents when determining the appropriate level of child support:
21 (1) A spouse who is applying for a child support order and whose income information is necessary to determine the amount of the order must include the following with the application:
- (a) a copy of every personal income tax return filed by the spouse for each of the three most recent taxation years;
- (b) a copy of every notice of assessment and reassessment issued to the spouse for each of the three most recent taxation years;
- (c) where the spouse is an employee, the most recent statement of earnings indicating the total earnings paid in the year to date, including overtime or, where such a statement is not provided by the employer, a letter from the spouse’s employer setting out that information including the spouse’s rate of annual salary or remuneration;
- (d) where the spouse is self-employed, for the three most recent taxation years
- (i) the financial statements of the spouse’s business or professional practice, other than a partnership, and
- (ii) a statement showing a breakdown of all salaries, wages, management fees or other payments or benefits paid to, or on behalf of, persons or corporations with whom the spouse does not deal at arm’s length;
- (e) where the spouse is a partner in a partnership, confirmation of the spouse’s income and draw from, and capital in, the partnership for its three most recent taxation years;
- (f) where the spouse controls a corporation, for its three most recent taxation years
- (i) the financial statements of the corporation and its subsidiaries, and
- (ii) a statement showing a breakdown of all salaries, wages, management fees or other payments or benefits paid to, or on behalf of, persons or corporations with whom the corporation, and every related corporation, does not deal at arm’s length;
- (g) where the spouse is a beneficiary under a trust, a copy of the trust settlement agreement and copies of the trust’s three most recent financial statements; and
- (h) in addition to any income information that must be included under paragraphs (c) to (g), where the spouse receives income from employment insurance, social assistance, a pension, workers compensation, disability payments or any other source, the most recent statement of income indicating the total amount of income from the applicable source during the current year, or if such a statement is not provided, a letter from the appropriate authority stating the required information.
In some situations, a parent’s income can be “imputed” (i.e., “assigned” by the family court) to a parent if they are “intentionally unemployed or underemployed” under s. 19 of the Child Support Guidelines.
(B) NUMBER OF CHILDREN
The Tables that provide the monthly child support in the Child Support Guidelines assumes that the children are living with one parent 60% of the time or more over the course of a year. For example, the Child Support Guidelines do not provide a fixed monthly amount of child support that is payable where there are three children, two of whom live equally with both parents and one child that lives primarily with only one parent. They also do not address what happens in a situation where a parent has a child 55% of the time under his or her care and the other parent has the child 45% of the time over the course of a year (there is no automatic discount for child support but a provision in the Child Support Guidelines that says that the Table amount may be “inappropriate.”)
If a child is over the age of 18, the Tables in the Child Support Guidelines may still apply if they continue to live with a parent 60% of the time or more over the year (or coming home to from university to live with a parent during the 4 month summer break) and are either pursuing further education (i.e., college, university or some other full-time program) or are unable to be independent for medical reasons, disability or some other reason set out in family law cases.
(C) AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT
It is important to know that while a parent’s child support obligation is similar whether you’re looking at the Federal Child Support Guidelines or the Provincial Child Support Guidelines, the amount of child support paid by a parent in Ontario is different than a parent who lives in British Columbia, Quebec or another province all of which have their own “provincial” guidelines). Before using the online child support calculator Ontario to figure out monthly child support please keep in mind that it assumes that children are primarily living with one parent (i.e., over 60% of the time) and that the line 150 income gross income is an appropriate starting point for determining a person’s annual income because it is “simple” (i.e., employment income, etc.).
Since child support is based on a parent’s income, it is something that will have to be adjusted when that parent’s income changes. If there are not significant changes in income, then parents generally will review child support obligations annually when they exchange income tax returns and notices of assessment every year. If a parent loses their job, becomes unable to work, or gets a new job then it may be appropriate to revisit the amount of child support with the other parent as soon as possible to reflect the current situation.
(D) SECTION 7 EXPENSES
On top of the child support a parent pays for a child’s food, shelter and clothing, there is a provision in the Child Support Guidelines for an amount payable on top of that for certain expenses set out in s. 7:
7 (1) In a child support order the court may, on either spouse’s request, provide for an amount to cover all or any portion of the following expenses, which expenses may be estimated, taking into account the necessity of the expense in relation to the child’s best interests and the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the spouses and those of the child and to the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation:
- (a) child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
- (b) that portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
- (c) health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counselling provided by a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses;
- (d) extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs;
- (e) expenses for post-secondary education; and
- (f) extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.
To figure out a parent’s proportionate share of section 7 expenses, the following formula applies:
Parent1’s Gross Annual Income
(Parent 1’s Gross Annual Income + Parent 2’s Gross Annual Income)
(i.e., $70,000 + $30,000)
Parent1’s Contribution towards Section 7 Expenses
A parent who contributes to a section 7 expense is only entitled to reimbursement from the other parent for the amount of money they are actually “out of pocket” (e.g., if daycare cost $5,000 but there’s a tax receipt allowing savings of $1,000 then the parent is only out of pocket for daycare $4,000; or if there are braces costing $5,000 and employee benefits covers $3,000 of the expense, then the parents only have to contribute to $2,000 in proportion to their income for the expense).
The above information is NOT legal advice of any kind, and you should be sure to speak to a qualified family law lawyer about your specific situation. For more information, on how to find justice during a pandemic, call us at 905-273-4588 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experienced family law lawyers at Kain & Ball Family Law about the child support calculator Ontario today.