Everything You Need to Know About Child Support Before You File for Divorce

Richmond Tymchuk Family Law

Everything You Need to Know About Child Support Before You File for Divorce

Richmond Tymchuk Family Law

Preparing to discuss child support and custody can be anxiety-provoking for any parent planning to file for divorce. Instead of falling into this state of worry, arm yourself with the facts and proper legal support from a qualified family lawyer to help you when the Alberta Courts reopen.

The most common questions about child support are related to each parent’s finances and their obligations related to changes in income, custody, and ongoing payment calculations. The Alberta Courts are currently not hearing child support related applications giving you time to review our most frequently asked questions about child support and connect with a member of our team before you file for divorce.

What Is Child Support Money Supposed to Cover?

Children need routine and child support helps maintain continuity in life. The money is for both the direct costs for the children and the indirect costs. This includes food, clothing, medical costs, housing, school costs, transportation and costs related to other activities.

How Is the Amount Determined?

Support payments are based on each parent’s gross annual income. The easiest way to find this is the amount entered on line 150 on your income tax return.

Does the Amount Change If We Share Custody?

Child support payments are dictated by income amounts and custody agreements. In Alberta, shared parenting is different than joint custody. Shared parenting means that a child spends at least 40% of the time with each parent and child support is based on the differences between the household incomes. Joint custody is a legal determination for different parenting arrangements. Consult with a lawyer to ensure the paying parent is covering the correct amount based on the custody arrangements.

What If I Don’t Agree with the Amount?

First, consult with a family lawyer to discuss if the amounts determined are appropriate given custody and finances. If your financial situation has changed, you can inform the other parent informally over text or with a letter from your lawyer that includes pay stubs and evidence of a wage reduction. You can also schedule a DRO or negotiate a Consent Order. Our experts are available to navigate you through this process. 

What Happens If the Other Parent Doesn’t Pay?

If the payer parent dismisses the obligation to pay, you should seek the advice of counsel. If that parent is not working or is working reduced time in an effort to avoid child support payments a judge can impute income to them. The judge will set an income amount based upon what they are capable of earning and base the child support due on that amount.

Will Support End When They Turn 18?

According to the Divorce Act, support ends when the child is over the age of the majority which is 18 in Alberta and has withdrawn from parental charge. If a child is at or over 18 and is unable, because of illness, disability, and other causes to leave parental care and obtain the necessities of life, then support may continue. If the child lives outside Alberta, the age of majority for that province applies. If support is not being paid under the Divorce Act, different rules are used under consultation with a lawyer and judge.

If I Take Custody of the Kids, Can I Stop Paying?

A judge has the ability to cancel or reduce payments and their decision is based on finding a long-lasting change. Changes to child support payments, custody, and the timelines for each need to be agreed upon between both parents through mediation or collaborative legal services to ensure a stable life for the children involved.

What If I Don’t Think I’m the Father?

If you believe you are not the parent, you may offer proof using DNA testing.


Alberta’s laws are in place to provide support for children and allow them to continue to benefit from both parent’s financial situation, despite a potentially stressful divorce process. Negotiating finances and shared parenting during a divorce can be frustrating, especially if either parent has been affected by a job loss or wage reduction. From lost income to the feeling that you are paying too much, finding a divorce lawyer you can trust to work through these personal matters is key.

If you're interested in reading more, our blog post about retroactive child support claims may be useful.

Our Calgary child support lawyers at Richmond Tymchuk Family Law LLP is available to discuss your matter by phone, FaceTime, Zoom and email. Contact us anytime at info@rtfamilylaw.ca.

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