When the parents of a child separate, the payment of financial support for the child becomes an issue.
Basically, if one parent is not going to be living with the child full time, he or she is obligated to pay support to the other parent. The support is not only for such direct items as clothing, school supplies, toys, diapers but also for indirect items such as housing, utilities, transportation etc. How much should be paid?
In 1997, the federal government introduced Child Support Guidelines. They are available from the Department of Justice Canada or on its website at justice.gc.ca/eng/ pi/fcy-fea/lib-bib/legis/fcsg-lfpae/2011/index.html.
The tables list income levels for the non-custodial parent. The income is to include monies earned from self-employment, investments, government benefits, commissions and bonuses. There are corresponding columns for the number of children.
For example, a parent earning $40,000 per year with two children would be required to pay $547 each month. A non-custodial parent earning $25,000 would pay $174 per month for one child.
The Child Support Guidelines were meant to make the calculation of child support predictable and consistent.
Generally, the custodial parent’s income is not relevant to a determination of the child support amount. The government tables are based on an amount that the payor spouse can afford to pay for the care of their children.
On top of the table amount of support, there can be an additional amount for daycare, prescription medication, dental bills, tuition or some extraordinary extracurricular expenses.
The parent receiving the child support is not required to provide any sort of receipts or to justify how they have spent the money. It is expected to be added into their monthly household income with which they must pay all of their expenses.
Since 1997, child support is not taxable for the person receiving it, and it is not a tax deduction for the payor.
There are exceptions to the guideline amount. For example: if the parents each have the child at least 40 per cent of the time, the income of both parents will need to be reviewed.
In cases of split custody, each parent will have at least one child in his or her custody.
Again, the couple would compare their incomes and determine whether any support would be payable. If a child is over the age of 18 years but not self-sufficient, the child support will need to be reviewed, for example, if the child is pursuing post-secondary education or is disabled.
There are also exceptions for payors who will find the guideline amount of support creates "undue hardship" and they will not be able to pay for their basic necessities.
There are however specific reasons as to why undue hardship would be created, such as having a second family, responsibility for a disabled dependent or unusually high costs of visiting the child.
If the payor spouse is deliberately underemployed, self-employed, or works at a job which allows them extra benefits or income tax savings, extra income can be imputed to them and their child support amount would go up.
The spouse receiving support has the option of signing up with the Maintenance Enforcement Office through the Department of Justice. The child support is then sent to the closest Maintenance Enforcement Office for recording and then sent on to the recipient.
Maintenance Enforcement has legislative authority to take collection action such as garnishing wages, suspending drivers’ licences or summoning non-payors to court.
» Jodi Wyman is a lawyer with Paterson, Patterson, Wyman and Abel, with offices in Brandon, Neepawa and Virden.