Child Support

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Both parties share a collective financial responsibility to care for their children. That means that under the law, both parents have an obligation to support their children financially. 

The Government of Canada (federal) and the Government of Alberta (provincial) each have guidelines that specify amounts for child support. These amounts are based on a number of factors, such as income. Considerations are made for expenses like childcare, health benefits, and education. Parents can make decisions about how to support their children in or out of court, depending on their needs.

Children need financial support from their parents—and they have a legal right to it. Cooperative partners can agree on terms, but when they disagree, the courts will decide for you. Because every situation is different, there are guidelines that the court will use to determine financial amounts.

The calculations for child support are similar under both the provincial and federal child support regulations.  Use this tool as a reference for what you may expect to receive or pay in child support.

How Many Children Will Require Child Support?

Children who are under the age of majority or pursuing higher education will most likely receive financial support from both parents. Parents who “act in place of a parent” can also have a child support obligation. This could apply to you if you are a step-parent, for example.

Calculating Annual Income – Whose Income is Needed?

Both parents’ income information is needed when the children spend approximately equal time in both homes, or when there are expenses that a parent is seeking reimbursement for. Income information must be provided when requested and must be provided annually, even if not requested by the custodial parent.  

Determine the Parenting Arrangement

The amount of time you spend with your children affects the amount of child support you pay. This means the parenting time agreement you settle on will impact your payment amount since it will be determined by the time the children spend with each parent. If primarily in the home of one parent, the other parent must contribute to the ongoing support (section 3 of the guidelines) by paying the appropriate support to the other parent.  

If the children spend roughly equal time with each parent, then the support is usually offset.  It is important that the agreement is properly ordered in shared parenting time support arrangements for the purposes of collecting tax deductions and benefits to which the parent(s) may be entitled. 

Child support is the right of the child. Courts will not allow divorces or agreements that do not provide proper maintenance (support) for the children.  Parents can make agreements that would not be available to the court to order, like the family home in exchange for lump sum future support payments, if they can defend that the arrangement provides the maintenance that the children are entitled to.

Special or extraordinary expenses to consider

Special and extraordinary expenses can also increase a parent’s child support obligation. It’s important to be honest about your child's needs and requirements so that the correct amount is calculated. 

Determination of undue hardship

Either parent can use undue hardship as a reason to either raise or lower the amount of a child support obligation. So, what constitutes an undue hardship? These circumstances will generally be justifiable financial obligations in Alberta, such as educational debt, child support obligations for other children, spousal support obligations to a former spouse, or costs associated with supporting a current spouse who is unable to support themself due to illness or disability. The test for undue hardship is not easy to meet. 

Spousal Support

In addition to child support, you or your spouse may have to pay spousal support. Amounts can be determined outside of court (through alternative dispute resolution processes) or in court by a judge. The court will require documents such as pay stubs, tax forms, and information about your assets and debts.

Marital factors will determine the amount of spousal support and any limits that apply. This includes consideration of how long you were married, how long you lived together, whether you have children, and any financial difficulties caused by the ending of the marriage.

Tough, Honest, Recommended

Q.E.D. Law – For Alberta Families