In a divorce, one of the most critical obligations of both parents is to support the affected children. Alberta and Canada’s laws require that children grow up benefiting from the financial means of both parents as if the parents were still together. As such, child support payments are typically calculated by income and the number of children the payee is supporting.
However, living situations vary and where children live in the care of each parent between 40% to 60% of the time, there is a broader scope for determination of the appropriate amount of child support. In these circumstances, it is recommended that a divorce lawyer or family law lawyer assist with the child support calculation. Still, guidelines exist that can help you begin to make sense of the expected baseline child support payments.
An important number in child support and parenting is 40%. This number is used to determine the parenting status between two parents. A parent who spends between 40% and 60% of the time with the child over the course of the year has shared parenting or shared custody.
If the parent spends less than 40% of the time with the child, then they do not have shared parenting or shared custody. In these cases, the basic child support calculator is used and the payee is generally expected to pay the full amount listed in addition to any extraordinary expense payments determined to be appropriate.
For shared parenting situations, the payment calculations work a little differently. To keep things simple, shared parenting broadly refers to the circumstances when both parents spend at least 40% of the year with the child. Shared parenting is often synonymous with joint custody, although they are not the same. Joint custody could involve any number of arrangements of time but where decision making on behalf of the child is a joint effort. If this describes your situation, it’s best to speak with a lawyer about child support questions.
Assuming a shared parenting situation, the next step in determining child support is identifying the set-off amount. The set-off amount refers to the difference between the basic child support amount each parent would pay were they not in a shared parenting situation. In other words, the dollar amount the parent would pay if only they were responsible for child support. Each parent calculates the amount they would pay based on their income using the table, and the difference between the two is the set-off amount.
For instance, if based on their incomes one parent would be required to pay $1000/month and the other parent would be required to pay $600/month, then the set-off amount is $400 dollars. The parent earning more, or the one that would have needed to pay $1000 in this case, would pay $400 in child support payments to make up the difference. This example may be overly simplistic, but it illustrates the type of calculation made in a shared custody situation. Please note though that the Federal Tax Court has issued several court decisions that state that only the recipient of child support may claim a child as their AED (amount of eligible dependent). So if you want to claim one of your children as the AED, you must be a recipient of child support, which might mean that you and your spouse must each pay each other, with no set off allowed.
Once the set-off amount is determined, the Court will determine if further adjustments to that amount are appropriate, taking into consideration the increased costs of shared parenting arrangements to the parties and the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of the parties and the children.
A family law lawyer in Calgary can help you understand payment obligations and expectations. A lawyer can also help provide a compassionate third party to help deliberate and reach understanding in a sensitive situation.