2.8 Child Support

Need to Know


For more information about child support laws and guidelines see the Department of Justice website. The website includes a range of information on child support, including the Child Support Table Look-Up. Another tool to help calculate child support is the My Support Calculator

Other Resources:  Family Law in BC Factsheet, Child Support Guidelines, Family Law Act, Divorce Act, JP Boyd

Parents have a legal responsibility to support their children financially. They have this duty even when they separate or divorce. This is called child support: One parent pays the other to help cover the costs of caring for the children. There are legal guidelines set out by the Government of Canada on how to calculate these payments. This makes it easier to agree on the amounts.

In addition to basic child support, parents also have the responsibility to pay for special or extraordinary expenses of the children – such as music lessons or an unexpected school field trip.

Parents should think about child support as soon as they separate. While all the other long-term details of the separation and divorce get worked out, children still need a regular routine. They need to be fed, housed, and clothed.

 Key Principles

 Parents must pay child support and special expenses for their children.
 Usually the parent that the child spends less time with will pay the support.
 Special expenses are generally paid proportionately, according to the income of each parent.


Child Support Payments

The laws around child support are quite specific. As a parent you must financially support any dependent children who are under 19. The parent who the child lives with most of the time is entitled to receive child support from the other parent to cover the cost of raising the child. If the child shares their time equally or close to equally between their parents, the parent who has a higher income will likely pay child support.

The amount of child support that needs to be paid is determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines set out a calculation based on the how you share parenting, number of children, income of the parents and the residence of the children.


Special or Extraordinary Expenses

In addition to child support, parents are obligated to pay for their children's special expenses, such as dental and medical care, educational, and extracurricular activity costs.

Lawyer’s Tip:

You’re going to need to know the income of the other parent.  Get their financial documents (income statements, tax assessments etc.). 

In court, all separating individuals need to provide financial information. 

Sharing financials helps keep you out of the courts and saves you time and money.

Typically special or extraordinary expenses will cover:

  • child care expenses
  • medical expenses
  • educational expenses
  • extracurricular activity expenses

The payments for special or extraordinary expenses are divided between the parents proportional to their incomes.


Need to Do

Steps for determining how much support to pay:

  1. Determine how to care for children (e.g. shared or sole)  
  2. Determine the number of eligible children
  3. Determine the annual income of both parents
  4. Find the base amount of child support payable using the child support guideline tables or calculator.
  5. Determine which of the children’s expenses qualify as special or extraordinary
  6. Determine the cost of qualified expenses
  7. Divided the special or extraordinary expenses between the parents in proportion to their respective gross incomes. When the parent receiving  the expense also receives spousal support, the spousal support will be deducted from the payor’s income and included in the recipient’s income

Once you reach an agreement on how much child support is to be paid by which parent. There will still be decisions about how these payments are to be made. How frequently will they occur and on what date? What will the method of payment be? What happens if a payment is late?

Let’s see how to calculate child support using the online child support calculator.


Calculating Child Support

To calculate the right amount of child support, it is CRITICAL to start with the suitable parenting arrangement.

There are 3 types of parenting arrangements:

1.  Sole custody

You have a sole custody arrangement if your child spends more than 60% of the time with one of you over the course of a year.

2.  Split custody

You split custody of your children if:

  • you have more than one child; and
  • you each have sole custody of at least one of the children.

3. Shared custody

You share custody of your children if they spend at least 40% of the time with each of you in a year.


Go to the Department of Justice website.

The basic calculator assumes sole custody is the parenting arrangement.  If your parenting arrangement is sole custody the paying parent is the one the child lives with less than 40% of the time.

To calculate:

  • Enter the annual gross income of the paying parent, the number of children and the province the paying parent lives in.
  • Click lookup
  • The amount provided is the monthly amount the paying parent will need to pay the other parent for child support.


Sharing Custody

If you are sharing custody, you will need to do this calculation twice once with your income and once with the other parent’s income. The difference between the two calculated child support amounts will be the amount of child support the parent with the higher income will pay to the other parent for child support.

If you make $52,000 and do the calculation your support payment would be $478. If your spouse makes $74,000 their support payment would be $692. Taking the difference you get $214. If you’re sharing custody your spouse would pay you $214 a month for child support.


Special Expenses Calculation

Both parents must contribute to the cost of the expense in proportion to their incomes. It is important to exchange financial information. You will need to know both your annual income as well as that of the other parent. You’ll want to write down a list of all the special expenses your children have during a year, such as piano lessons, tutoring, dental costs…etc.  Make sure to organize all receipts for special expenses in a folder and be able to provide them during negotiations.  You will divide the cost of these expenses between you and the other parent proportional to your incomes.

Chapter 6 will discuss the laws around child support in more detail.

Do the Child Support Activity to practice making these calculations. After fill in the Child Support Worksheet with your own information. Going into negotiations after figuring out financial details will put you in a better position to making a realistic settlement.