Usually child support is money paid by the parent that spends the least amount of time with the child to the parent who takes care of the child most of the time. It is used to help cover the costs of caring for the child.
Even if your child spends an equal amount of time with each of you, the parent with the higher income may still have to pay some child support.
The parent who pays child support is called the payor parent.
You and your partner can try to reach an agreement about child support before going to court. You can use the Child Support Guidelines and the Government of Canada's child support tables to see how much child support a judge might order.
The tables are based on the gross annual income of the payor parent and the number of children entitled to support. There is a separate table for each province and territory.
The tables show the basic monthly amounts of child support to cover expenses like clothes, groceries, and school supplies. It is the payor parent's contribution to meet the child’s basic needs, just as if they were living with the child.
The table amount assumes that the parent who is caring for the child most of the time contributes to their financial support.
There are other factors that may affect the amount of child support a judge might order. For example:
- special or extraordinary expenses, like daycare that are not covered in the table amount
- the type of custody arrangement, such as shared custody or split custody
- undue hardship or financial difficulties that make it very hard for the payor parent to pay child support
- retroactive support with a start date before the date of the court order
Basic monthly amounts of child support are set out in the Child Support Guidelines and the Government of Canada's child support tables. It is based on the gross annual income of the payor parent and the number of children entitled to support.
The income of the parent receiving support is usually not relevant. The table amount assumes that the parent who is caring for the child most of the time contributes to their financial support.
There is an online calculator at the Child Support Lookup that can help you figure out the table amount of child support.
The tables only show the basic monthly amount of child support that cover things like:
- a share of the rent or mortgage to cover the cost of the child's housing
- bills for household expenses
- school supplies
Gross income means income before taxes and most other deductions. There are two ways to find this amount:
- Look at line 150 of the payor parent’s income tax return or notice of assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency.
- Look at pay stubs for a full year and add up the earnings before deductions.
Payor parents must give detailed information about their income. This can include:
- income tax returns and notices of assessment
- pay stubs or statements from employers
- financial statements of any business they own
- statements from employment insurance, social assistance, a pension, worker’s compensation, or disability payments
- proof of income from a trust
Pick the right table
There is a separate table for each province and territory to reflect different tax rates between provinces and territories.
If the payor parent lives in a province or territory other than Ontario, use the table for that province or territory. If the payor parent lives outside of Canada, and the other parent in Ontario, use the Ontario table.
Some expenses are not covered in the basic monthly amount of child support. These are called special or extraordinary expenses and can include:
- extracurricular activities such as competitive sports classes
- child care expenses to allow the parent who looks after the child to go to work or school so they can get a job
- medical and dental insurance premiums
- health expenses such as prescriptions and eyeglasses
- educational expenses, including post-secondary education or private school fees
If you're the parent claiming these expenses, you have to show that they are reasonable given your family's financial circumstances. This means you and your partner can afford it.
You must also show that they are necessary because they are in the best interests of the child. The court looks to see if these expenses were part of the family's spending pattern before separation. For example, was your child enrolled in private school and did they go to summer camp every year before separation.
Even if the expense was not part of your spending pattern before separation, the court can still decide it is in your child’s best interests, if you and your partner can afford it.
In most cases, both parents contribute to special expenses based on how much they make. So, if both you and your partner make roughly the same amount of money, you split the cost of special expenses equally.
If your child is over the age of majority, that is, 18 or older, and still a dependent, they may also have to contribute to their special expenses. If a child makes a contribution, it is deducted before the expense is divided between the parents.
Sometimes a parent may not have to pay child support or may pay less than the table amount of child support.
The court looks at the facts of your case to see if:
- the payor parent is a step-parent
- there is a custody arrangement like shared custody or split custody
- the payor parent has undue hardship or financial difficulties that make it very hard for them to pay child support
If you're the parent the child lives with most of the time, you can apply to court for child support at any time after separation.
If you and your partner try to make a separation agreement without going to court but are not successful, you can ask for retroactive support. This means asking the court to decide on the amount of support and to order that it be back-dated.
Usually, a retroactive child support order can go back to the date that you gave the payor parent effective notice.
Effective notice is the date you told your partner they should pay child support. For example, you may have asked your partner for child support the day after you separated. It's a good idea to ask for support in writing so that you have proof that you asked for it.
The court generally limits retroactive support to the past 3 years. It can be longer if the payor parent hid increases in income or ignored child support obligations.
The court looks at things like these:
- Why was the application for support delayed?
- How has the payor parent behaved during this time?
- What was the child's life like in the past and what is it like now?
- Will awarding retroactive support cause hardship to the payor parent?
The law says that both parents are responsible for financially supporting their dependent children. Dependent usually means until the child turns 18 and sometimes longer.
A child is not a dependant if they:
- marry, or
- are at least 16 years old and leave home ("voluntarily withdraw from parental control").
A child who is over the age of majority, that is, 18 or older, may still be dependent if they cannot support themselves because they:
- have a disability or illness, or
- are going to school full-time.
In the case of disability or chronic illness, a child over the age of majority can remain dependent for their entire life.
In the case of post-secondary students, a child who is diligently pursuing (not just enrolled in) their first undergraduate degree or diploma is generally in need of support until they finish school. This usually lasts until the child turns 22 or gets a degree or diploma. Sometimes support can be ordered to allow the child to get more than one degree.
If the judge finds that a child over the age of majority should receive child support, they can order the table amount or something different. The issue for children over the age of majority is whether the table amount should be reduced, and if so, by how much.
The court looks at things like:
- How much can the child contribute to their expenses?
- If the child is studying away from home, how many months are they not living with a parent?
- Is the child in school full-time or part-time?
- If the child is going for a second degree or diploma, will it help them get a job after graduation?