While most child support is set according to the Federal Child Support Guidelines, there are cases where the amount of child support that parents are expected to pay becomes anything but straightforward.
When that happens, the team at Merchant Law is the team to turn to. Our lawyers have extensive experience with complex child support cases. We can help you secure a fair settlement that protects both you and your children.
Is child support negotiable?
In many ways, child support is the least negotiable part of any family law settlement. If you have minor children, your settlement must include child support. That child support can never be less than the amount set out by the federal guidelines unless a parent makes more than $150,000 per year, though it can be more. It can also be modified by the amount of parenting time each parent has with their children.
What complicates child support, or makes it negotiable? Child support tables are built for people with regular, steady, wage-earning income. They aren’t built for contractors, entrepreneurs, business owners, or high-asset, high-income people. In these cases, the parent’s income isn’t so easy to nail down. In addition, the child support amounts tend to become a bit ridiculous at higher income brackets, which is why the law allows you to negotiate the payment down somewhat.
For example, a parent earning $350,000 per year would be on the hook for $2916 per month. It’s unlikely the other parent truly needs that much money to support the actual direct needs of their children. This amount could perhaps instead be negotiated down to $1916 without harming the child in any way.
The guidelines also are built for children who have standard needs. They aren’t built for children who have special needs. A child with muscular dystrophy, for example, might need thousands of dollars in ongoing medical care, which the guidelines were not meant to cover. Some provision must be made for that care to get paid for, and both parents have a responsibility to contribute to that care.
When any of these factors are present, it falls to us to help you negotiate an appropriate amount of support for your children.
Parenting time plays a big role in who receives child support and how it is paid.
If one parent has more than 61% of the parenting time, that parent is the primary residential parent. The parent with less time will generally pay them support. The amount is based solely on the amount of money the parent makes and the number of children they are supporting.
These parenting arrangements are very rare. Its far more common to see both parents receive 41% parenting time or more. Courts favor arrangements that are close to 50/50 in most modern cases.
When this happens, the courts look at the amount of child support each parent would be asked to pay based on their own income and the number of children supported. They then subtract the lower amount from the higher, and the higher earning parent pays the difference.
For example, Parent A is making $55,000 per year and is co-parenting one child with Parent B. Parent B makes $95,000 per year.
Parent A’s child support obligation would be $517.00 per month under the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Parent B would be required to pay $903.00 per month. Parent A has their child 49% of the time; Parent B has their child 52% of the time. Parent B is required to pay Parent A $386 per month to make up the difference.
Why does parenting time matter? Because the parent is assumed to be supporting that child the entire time they are with their parent. That parent will generally feed them, house them, wash their clothes, drive them to appointments, and pay expenses as they arise. However, in a situation where one parent is seeing their child a lot less, the primary residential parent is assumed to be absorbing most of these expenses, and so receives the entire child support check.
Section 7 Expenses
Section 7 Expenses are special expenses that might arise during the course of caring for a minor child. There are two forms of these expenses.
In cases where a child already has ongoing special expenses such as private school tuition or ongoing medical care needs these amounts could be added to a parenting order atop the base child support as a regular, ongoing monthly payout.
However, good parenting orders will also make provisions for the numerous expenses that arise during the course of parenting any child, such as emergency medical care, braces, summer camp tuition, fees for extra-curricular activities, and other such needs. The orders should outline which special expenses are considered “needs,” which can only be paid with parental agreement, and how they will be paid.
The orders could assign certain special expenses to one parent, or can demand 50% reimbursement of certain expenses, or can span a myriad of arrangements in between. The key point is that it is important for your lawyer to include these expenses in your settlement.
Get Help Today
Founding partner Anthony Merchant is the Associate Editor of the Carswell Reports of Family Law. He’s also been published extensively in the Canadian Family Law Quarterly. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Canadian Journal of Family Law, as well as of The Family Law Journal.
Many of our member lawyers have also been published in all of these prestigious journals.
Anthony Merchant combines this background with thousands of hours of practical case experience, as do all of our lawyers. In addition, most of our divorce lawyers have also worked in our real estate and business law divisions.
Most of our lawyers have 20 to 30 years of experience. And we work as a team, which means even our youngest family lawyers will have access to a wealth of experience and understanding that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other law firm.
We’re known for being some of Canada’s savviest negotiators and some of her toughest litigators. We also provide ongoing legal support and court order modifications for families who have to return to court multiple times to address child support issues.
Call (604) 394-2777 to schedule your case review and to get paired with your own dedicated family law lawyer.