John Schuman, Toronto Family Law lawyer at Devry Smith Frank LLP, was asked this question just recently: “I am about to change to an equal split of time in a shared custody arrangement. I understand that the child support will be reduced to my ex’s minus mine from the table, leaving only about $130 in support. But, is this expected to pay for all of his share of clothing, school supplies, etc. or is this to help support the household expenses of my son living with me to keep the standard of living the same? Are we both expected to pay our proportionate share with such expenses? We currently pay our proportionate share for daycare and sports activities, although he says sports activities are considered part of child support.”
Child support in shared parenting situations gets a little tricky. A lot depends on the specifics, so it would be a good idea to speak to a good family lawyer. However, I will go over some of the general principles here.
When you have a “shared parenting regime”, meaning that a child spends at least 40% of his or her time with each parent, then child support changes for that child. The idea is that each parent should be paying his or her proportionate share of all of the costs for raising the child based on that parent’s income. Figuring out exactly what a child costs can be a exhausting exercise, so the Supreme Court said, in the Contino case that parents should start by setting of the table child support payments for the shared child. For example, if one parent makes $100,0000 and one parent makes $50,000.00, the parent who makes $100,000 will pay the table amount of child support for $100,000 income minus the table amount of child support for $50,000 income. It is NOT correct for the parent making $100,000 to pay support based on a $50,000 income.
However, the presumption is that with the set off, after support is paid, each parent will be bearing an appropriate amount of the cost of raising the child. If that is not the case, and one parent continues to disproportionately pay for the child’s expenses (for example, only one parent buys clothes, birthday gifts, toys etc.), then it is not appropriate to just do the “set off” and it would be more appropriate to figure out the child’s expenses and divide them up in proportion to the parent’s incomes. Ideally, that would be done by coming up with an average monthly amount for one parent to pay to the other.
The Contino case sets out how to deal with support in shared parenting arrangements. So, you can listen to this podcast to learn more or watch this video video which gives an overview of child support.
You should still be sharing your child’s special and extraordinary expenses in proportion to your incomes, no matter how you have worked out “base child support.” It is true that some less expensive sports and other activities are not extraordinary expenses, while others definitely are. Parents always share the costs of “special expenses” in addition to base child support. To understand special and extraordinary expenses better, listen to this podcast and look at this page.
For a much more complete explanation of how child support works with shared parenting and special and extraordinary expenses, pick up a copy of this $20, easy-to-understand guide to the basics of Ontario Family Law. Not only does it explain how child support in detail, but it also explains how to get child support issues resolved both in and out of Family Court.
For more information on this topic or any other Family Law related question, please contact Toronto family lawyer John Schuman at 416-446-5080.