Child Support and Spousal Support

Financial support can be a very contentious issue, whether it is in regards to your children, or yourself or your former partner.

Do I have to pay Child Support?

Child support is monetary payments that one parent makes to the other to support their child financially following a separation or divorce. Child Support is the right of a child, and even if you and your former spouse or partner decide that child support is not payable between the two of you, a court may determine otherwise if your matter is brought in front of a judge. The notion is that a child who has a family intact benefits from both parents financially, and that this should not change despite a child’s parents living separate and apart. Child support is supposed to help cover the general costs and basic needs of the child, such as shelter, food, and clothing.

How much Child Support do I have to Pay?

The amount of child support a parent has to pay is fairly straightforward, thanks to the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The amount of child support payable depends on your income, the number of children you have, and who your children are living with. The amount of child support that is payable under the Federal Child Support Guidelines is the same month to month, and year to year, so long as there is not a change to your situation, such as an increase or decrease in income.  If you would like to find out how much child support you have to pay or should be receiving, the Government of Canada’s Department of Justice has a tool for that.

It is important to remember that you may have to pay more than just the monthly amount set out in the Guidelines. Expenses, such as medical, dental, tuition, sports, and other extra-curriculars, are not covered with the regular monthly child support payable and are considered special or extraordinary expenses. Also referred to as section 7 expenses, the amount payable is not necessarily as clear. Section 7 expenses are often shared between each of the parents based on each of their respective incomes; however, this can be negotiated between you and your former partner to decide another way to pay for these additional child expenses.

How long do I have to pay Child Support?

Many people think that upon their child turning 18, they are no longer obligated to pay child support or to pay for special expenses, but this is not always the case. Both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act set out that child support is continued to be payable in a number of circumstances, such as if your child is disabled or ill, or if your child continues into post-secondary education.

Do I have to pay Spousal Support or Alimony?

Spousal support, or often called alimony in the United States, is when you have to pay a former spouse or partner money following your separation. Spousal support is only upon the breakdown of a relationship; you cannot claim spousal support prior to your separation date.  It is possible to claim spousal support for both married and unmarried cohabitating couples.

However, just because you were living with your partner does not automatically make you or them entitled to spousal support. A person must first show that they are entitled to spousal support. Once entitlement is determined, the courts must decide the amount of spousal support, and the length of time in which spousal support will be paid, including the start date, and whether there is a fixed end date.

Am I entitled to Spousal Support?

To determine if a person is entitled to spousal support, the courts will look at whether there is:

  1. Lost opportunities experienced by a person due to the relationship or whether they deserve compensation for the role they took on during the relationship;
  2. The needs of a person for the financial support and the ability of the other person to pay; or
  3. a previous agreement or arrangement between the parties regarding support.

How much will I have to pay in Spousal Support? How long will I have to pay Spousal Support for?

To determine the amount of spousal support payable and the length of time in which it needs to be paid for, the courts will look at, including but not limited to:

  1. The length of time that you were living together;
  2. Your’s and your ex-partner’s assets and incomes, both current and future;
  3. Your ages and the ages of any children; and
  4. The physical and mental health of the parties.

Spousal support can be payable in a number of different ways, such as on a monthly basis, in the form of a lump sum payment, or it can be off-set with an equalization payment or with dividing property differently.