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What are special or extraordinary expenses?

Special or extraordinary expenses are childcare expenses that are not included in the basic monthly amounts of child support. These expenses are sometimes called section 7 expenses.

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.

The Child Support Guidelines and the Government of Canada's child support tables set basic monthly amounts of child support. The tables are based on the gross annual income of the payor parent and the number of children they have to support. There is a separate table for each province and territory.

The tables show the basic monthly amounts of child support, also called the table amount. The table amount pays for things like your child’s clothes, groceries, and school supplies.

Special or extraordinary expenses are extra expenses not covered in the table amount. These expenses may include:

  • child care fees, such as daycare, to allow the parent who looks after the child to go to work or school
  • the part of medical and dental insurance premiums the other parent pays to cover their child
  • the child’s health expenses, such as orthodontics, prescriptions, eyeglasses, counselling, or hearing aids
  • reasonable and extraordinary expenses for school or educational programs to meet the child’s particular needs, such as tutors or private school fees
  • expenses for post-secondary education
  • reasonable and extraordinary expenses for the child's extracurricular activities, such as competitive sports classes

These expenses must be reasonable and necessary. Steps 3 and 4 below explain when an expense is reasonable or necessary.

There is no checklist to see if an expense is special or extraordinary. Every expense is decided based on your family’s financial situation. You and your partner can decide if an expense is special or extraordinary.

In most cases, both parents help pay for their child's special expenses based on their income. So, if both you and your partner make roughly the same amount of money, you divide the cost of special expenses equally.

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Next Steps: 

1. Show the expense is reasonable

If you're the parent asking for special or extraordinary expenses, you have to show that the expense is reasonable.

When deciding if an expense is reasonable, the court looks at your family's financial situation. This includes things like:

  • both your incomes
  • the basic monthly amount of child support being paid
  • the number of extracurricular programs your children go to
  • the total cost of these programs
  • whether these expenses were part of your family's spending pattern before you separated

This means the court looks to see if you and your partner can afford the cost.

It also looks at the spending patterns of the family before you separated to see if the expense was something the family paid for. For example, the court will want to know whether your child went to private school or summer camp before you separated.

Even if the expense was not part of your family's spending pattern before you separated, the court can still decide to allow the expense, because:

  • it is in your child's best interests, and
  • you and your partner can afford it.

2. Show the expense is necessary

If you're the parent asking for special or extraordinary expenses, you have to show that the expense is necessary.

This means the expense is in the best interests of your child because they have a special talent or need extra help.

For example, it may be in your child's best interest to go to competitive swimming lessons because they are talented swimmers, or to get tutoring because they need help with math.

3. Figure out if your child is a dependent

Your child has to be dependent if you want your partner to share their special or extraordinary expenses.

Dependent usually means until the child turns 18 and sometimes longer.

A child is not a dependent if they:

  • marry, or
  • are at least 16 years old and leave home, which is also known as "voluntarily withdraw from parental control".

Withdrawal from parental control means your child decides not to live with you anymore and not to follow your rules. The withdrawal from parental control must be voluntary. This means the child cannot be forced to leave.

For example, if the child is "kicked out" or if the living conditions at the parent's home is so bad that the child is forced to leave, the withdrawal is not voluntary. The parents are still responsible for supporting the child.

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, it is generally accepted that a child who is studying for their first undergraduate degree or diploma is in need of support until they finish school. The child has to be studying and not just enrolled in the program.

This support 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 child may also have to contribute to their expenses. This depends on the facts of your case.

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4. Divide the expense

In most cases, both parents share the cost for their child’s special or extraordinary expenses based on their incomes.

For example, if you and your partner have roughly the same incomes, you divide or share the special or extraordinary expense equally. But if your income is double your partner’s income, then you pay double what your partner pays.

You and your partner can also agree to share the expenses in a different way.

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 your child is paying a part of their special or extraordinary expenses, that amount is subtracted before the parents divide the expense.

Share financial information

You and your partner have to share honest and complete information about your income before deciding how to divide special or extraordinary expenses.

You can share this information in many ways. For example, you could use a computer spreadsheet or a handwritten document that has all your financial information. Or, you can fill out one of the financial statement court forms.

Many people use these forms even if they don't go to court. The forms can be useful because they show you what the court looks at when deciding your support issues.

The person asking for special or extraordinary expenses should also list:

  • each expense and explain what it is for
  • the total cost
  • the date payments are due
  • any other relevant information
  • receipts
Reviewed: 
August, 2016

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