How To Determine Whether Child Support Or Spousal Support Is To Be Paid

Even if a parent does not see or take care of his or her children, they have a responsibility under the law to financially support and provide for them. This includes parents, guardians and sometimes step-parents. 

Child support is the money that one parent pays to the other parent in order to provide for the daily needs of the child or children.

If a child spends the majority of his or her time living with one parent, this parent is entitled to receive child support payments from the other parent. If a child spends roughly the same amount of time with each parent, the parent with the higher income is usually the one to make child support payments. 

Even though child support is an amount of money paid from one parent to the other, it is the legal right of the child. 

If a parent has not been making his or her child support payments or falls behind on them, the other parent cannot refuse them parenting time or access to the children based on this fact. 

The amount of child support payable in British Columbia is outlined in the Federal Child Support Guidelines (a document published by the Department of Justice and used by the court). You can find the tables here.

The amount is based on the paying parent’s income, number of children, and the province in which the paying parent lives and works.

There are also special and extraordinary expenses (commonly referred to as “Section 7 expenses”) which are expenses that you pay for your child on top of basic child support payments (in essence, on top of the basic cost of living). They include expenses such as:

  • Childcare expenses while a parent works or goes to school
  • Medical and dental insurance premiums for the child
  • A child’s healthcare over and above what is covered by insurance
  • Primary and secondary education expenses or educational programs
  • Post-secondary education expenses (university tuition fees)
  • A child’s extracurricular activities

The Federal Child Support Guidelines specify that special expenses are expenses that are a) necessary because they are in the child’s best interest, b) reasonable in relation to the means of the parents, and c) consistent with family spending patterns prior to separation. 

It is important that parents discuss the need for these types of expenses before incurring the expense. Section 7 disputes often require the involvement of courts to determine whether an expense is necessary and reasonable. 

If you cannot agree on which expenses are reasonable or how to pay them, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a lawyer. 

Spousal support is another type of support that may be payable after separation or divorce. If you were a) married or b) unmarried and living in a common-law relationship for at least two continuous years, you may be eligible for spousal support depending on your circumstances.

Spousal support is a financial obligation to be paid by one spouse to the other after a relationship breaks down. Spousal support is partly intended to help each spouse become financially independent within a reasonable period of time post-separation. 

There are several factors involved in determining whether spousal support is appropriate in a particular situation. These include:

  • The duration of the relationship
  • The functions performed by each spouse during the relationship
  • The financial consequences arising from the care of any children during a relationship
  • The financial circumstances of both spouses during the relationship and after separation
  • The ability of each spouse to support themselves

If you were married, you must apply for spousal support within two years of getting a divorce or annulment order. 

If you were unmarried, you must apply within two years of your separation date. In addition, spousal support agreements or orders are typically only made for a limited period of time. 

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (a document published by the Department of Justice and used by the court) can help you figure out the appropriate amount of spousal support payable in your circumstances. 

The amount is based on how much the paying spouse earns, the duration of the relationship and whether you have children. 

The website MySupportCalculator.ca can also help you determine a rough figure. However, spousal support calculations can be complicated, especially if you have children, and a lawyer with the right software is able to do a more accurate calculation. 

Please call our office at 250.475.0775 if you have questions about child support or spousal support.