6.8 Child Support


Even after the parents have separated, children are legally entitled to receive financial and emotional support from their parents. Usually the parent who lives with the child for the least amount of time is required to pay child support to the other parent to help ensure that the child’s needs are met.

Child support is the money paid by one parent to the other parent as financial support for the children. The amount of child support can be agreed to in a separation agreement, but if the parents cannot agree, they can seek an order from the court to decide how child support is to be paid.

Law Guide:

Family Law Act : Part 7 Child support

Child support Guidelines

Child support is paid for a child who is:

  1. under the age of 19; or
  2. 19 or older but is financially dependent on a parent.

A college student or an adult child with serious health problems might still be entitled to child support, even though they are over 19.


Stepparents may also need to pay child support. 

Under the Divorce Act, a spouse of the parent would need to pay support if they had a parent-like relationship with the child

Under the Family Law Act, a spouse of the parent would need to pay support if:

a)  They lived with the child 
b)  They lived with the child’s parent for at least 2 years
c)  They contributed to the support of the child for at least one year;
d)  The application is filed within one year of their last contribution of support for the child; and
e)  They have separated from the parent


How is child support calculated?

The court uses the Federal Child Support Guidelines to help determine the amounts of child support owing. The values in the guidelines are based on:

  • where the children live
  • a parent’s income
  • the cost of living
  • provincial income tax
  • the average amounts that families across Canada spend to care for children

It is rare for a court to award child support that is significantly different than those set out in the CGS. If the amount from the CGS would cause you undue hardship, you may ask the court to reduce the amount of child support needing to be paid. Showing hardship is not enough. You must prove it is undue hardship.  Courts have said that "undue" means excessive, exceptional, or disproportionate. This is not an easy thing to prove.

When a child lives with both parents 40% of the time or more, most often child support is calculated by figuring out what they would each pay to the other if they were the primary parent. The difference between the two is what the higher income earning parent pays. If there is little difference between the parent’s incomes, neither will have to pay child support. You will need to know both parents’ incomes. 

In Chapter 2, you were given a worksheet to fill out about child support (Child Support Worksheet). Refer back to that sheet or complete it now.


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, as well as educational and extracurricular activity costs. Special or Extraordinary Expenses are often called s7 expenses because they are discussed in s. 7 of the Child support Guidelines.

Parents usually share the cost of the following special or extraordinary expenses: 

  • child care expenses, often so the parent who looks after the child can work or go to school in order to get work;
  • medical or health related expenses for the child, including the cost of medical insurance;
  • some educational expenses, including for post-secondary education or private school fees; and
  • some expenses for extracurricular activities like music or art lessons, or sports.

Whether an expense is considered special or extraordinary depends on the parents’ financial circumstances, the nature and number of the activities and the child’s special talents and needs. This means dance lessons for one child might be a special or extraordinary expense, while not for another child.

Usually both parents must contribute to the cost of special and extraordinary expenses in proportion to their incomes. 


Temporary child support can be sought with an Interim Order. This is useful if you can’t reach an agreement over child support and are facing a long wait before your trial. To learn more about how to do this see Chapter 8.3.

For details on how to calculate these expenses refer back to Child Support in Chapter 2.


  • The parent who lives with the child most of the time is usually entitled to child support from the other parent. 
  • If a child spends equal, or almost equal, time with both parents, the parent with the higher income will usually have to pay child support.
  • Courts base the amount of child support according to the Federal Child Support Guideline

Before moving to the next section, do the Child Support Exercise.