Posted by Christine Dunlop — filed in Family Law
Child support is one of the most contentious issues for separating and divorcing couples. But what is child support, why do you have to pay it, and what happens when you’re unemployed?
Child support is the monthly sum that the person ordered to pay the support pays to the person who has custody over the child. It is usually paid from one parent to the other. It is calculated using either the Federal Child Support Table or a Provincial Child Support Table. The table that is used will depend on which province or territory you are located in, whether you were married or in a common law relationship, what kind of custody arrangement you have with your former spouse or partner, and where each party lives. It may be necessary to use multiple tables.
In addition to the child support calculated by using the relevant tables, you may also have to pay child support for ‘special expenses’. These expenses can include extra-curricular activities and additional health care costs. In Alberta, divorcing couples use the Federal Child Support Guidelines (Federal Guidelines). Separating couples will use the Alberta Child Support Guidelines (Alberta Guidelines).
The purpose of child support is to make sure that the child continues to benefit financially from both parties.
The first question you need to ask is “Am I considered a parent of the child in question?”. If you are the child’s biological parent, the answer is yes. Under the Alberta Guidelines, “a person standing in the place of a parent” can be considered a parent. To determine if you are standing in the place of a parent, you must be in a relationship with one of the child’s parents and you must have demonstrated an intention to treat the child as your own. Your relationship with the child’s parent also needs to have some permanence. The court will decide whether these factors have been met. A good example of someone who would be considered to stand in for a parent would be a step-mother who has been married to the child’s father for 15 years.
The second question you need to ask is “Is my child considered a child?”. If your child is younger than the age of majority (18), then they are considered a child under both the Federal Guidelines and the Alberta Guidelines. If your child is older than 18, you may still need to pay child support under certain circumstances. For example, if your child cannot move out of the house due to a disability, you may still need to pay child support. If your child is pursuing education past the age of 18, you may also be required to continue paying child support. However, a court will not enforce a child support order if your child is of a certain age. For example, if your 30-year-old child decides to go back to school, it is not likely that you will be required to pay child support.
If you suffer a job loss, you are still required to pay child support. However, you may request a variation of your child support order to a payment that reflects your job loss. In Alberta, you can get this recalculation through the Maintenance Enforcement Program. You can also request a variation in your child support payments due to undue hardship. For example, if you are required to support multiple households and have no money left to pay child support, this could be considered undue hardship.
Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, if your income is lower than the minimum amount of income on the relevant child support table and you are required to pay child support, your child support may be varied. You will have to submit certain documents for the past 3 taxation years to your ex-spouse.
However, if you are deliberately underemployed or unemployed, the court may impute your income. This means that they will assign you an income they believe appropriate, or change the amount of the income you provided if they believe it is incorrect. Unless you have a valid reason for the under/unemployment such as your child’s care, your health, or pursuing further education, the court will assign you income that it believes you should have.
Child support is a contentious concept in family law. Some feel that paying support is unfair but the bottom line is that your child has the right to support.
If you are going through a divorce or separation and would like legal advice regarding child support, contact a lawyer at Aarbo Fuldauer LLP in Calgary.
Address: 3rd Floor, 1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 3P4
Phone: (403) 571-5120