Alberta law requires divorcing couples to set a child support amount. One way or another, one parent will be paying the other some money in most cases.
Even an unmarried parent may receive child support. You will have to take some legal steps to establish the father’s paternity. A biological father may have guardianship rights over his child, and may be included in a co-parenting plan. Fighting for paternity rights and holding unwed fathers accountable for their children can be complex legal processes. You’ll need help in that circumstance, just as you would during a divorce.
If there’s a formula for determining child support, why do I need a child support lawyer?
Federal law does set child support guidelines. But the basic amount isn’t necessarily the amount the payor will end up sending to the payee. Alberta law allows for “special expenses.” These could include medical and dental expenses, bills for psychological counseling, educational expenses and even extracurricular expenses. This allows the payee to push for amounts much higher than the basic amount.
If you are the payor, going in without a good child support lawyer could mean a monthly child support bill that’s too high for you to pay while meeting your own basic living expenses. While most parents want to provide for their children, they want to do it in a financially realistic way. And once those amounts are set they can be difficult to modify after the fact unless you have a major change in circumstances. The courts have a great many resources at their disposal to punish payors who fall behind. A bad turn in the courtroom could be devastating.
If you are the payee, you want to make sure you have enough to care for your child. Raising children is expensive, and in most cases you’re going to be the one providing the child’s primary residence. Many special expenses are legitimate, and you don’t want to be stuck paying for all of them out of pocket. You need a lawyer who will be able to demonstrate why you need more child support than what basic Federal guidelines allow.
Special expenses aren’t the only issue. If you or your spouse are self-employed, own a business, or work on commission you’ve got to make sure the court projects and calculates your income correctly. There are many unfavourable ways to project variable income. Without solid legal representation you could end up in a great deal of financial distress.
You and your ex can negotiate over child support amounts, but the ultimate figure you arrive at must be approved by the court. All arrangements involving children must be within the best interests of the child.
Is it ever possible to pay less than the amount set by the Federal guidelines?
If you and your spouse have a 50/50 co-parenting agreement, or something close to it, then you may only have to pay a child support offset. This is advantageous as most parents want as much time with their children as possible, but some parents will have to fight for it.
In an offset agreement, each spouse calculates the amount of child support he or she would have been paying had the other parent been the payor. The higher-earning spouse subtracts the amount the lower earning spouse would have paid, then pays the difference. These agreements must be approved by the court.
Where no agreement is possible, in appropriate cases our lawyers can argue your case before a judge to get the Court to Order it, even though the other parent will not agree.
Child support amounts may also be reduced if the court finds the payor has undue hardship.
What happens when my income changes, or my spouse’s does?
Your child support amount won’t change automatically. You’ll have to apply for a modification of the existing court order. This, too, requires a good lawyer. You’ll need to furnish the court with proof and a strong case.
In some cases, we can also help you cancel or reduce arrears using the same process. Your circumstances may have changed months before the court considers modifying the order.
Where to Get Help
If you are facing a child support case call (780) 474-7777 to make an appointment with one of our to experienced family law lawyers. We will be happy to answer all your questions.
Our office is located at:
Ledgeview Business Centre
9707 110 St NW, Suite 325
Edmonton, AB T5K 2L9