Under BC family law, children have a legal right to child support. Whether parents are married, common-law, or never lived together at all, they have a legal obligation to provide child support for their children.
When parents separate or divorce, the parent the children live with most of the time is entitled to receive child support from the other parent, regardless of whether the other parent sees or takes care of the children. But how is child support calculated in BC? Read on for an overview of the basics of child support and how BC child support is determined from the family lawyers at Bronson Jones & Company. What is child support? Child support is money paid by one parent (the “payor”) to the other (the “recipient”) to help cover the expenses associated with raising children. There are two types of child support: • Basic child support, which is payable on a monthly basis and is intended to cover expenses such as food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment; • Special or extraordinary expenses, which are payable on top of basic child support, and can include reasonable and necessary expenses for costs such as daycare, extracurricular activities, and medical or dental treatments. The method for calculating the amount to be paid is different for each of these two types of child support. How is basic child support calculated in BC? In BC, basic child support is determined based on the payor parent’s income using the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the British Columbia child support tables. The Table amount payable under the Federal Child Support Guidelines is determined based on three factors: • the number of children; • the province or territory where the payor parent lives; and • the payor parent's before tax annual income (this is typically the amount on line 150 of the payor parent's income tax return). The Child Support Table Lookup tool can be used in simple cases to determine how much child support the payor parent should pay based on those three factors. But be cautioned that the Lookup Tool is for general information purposes only, and the actual amount of child support payable may be different than what is set out in the Table. Factors that will complicate the calculation include where the payor lives outside of Canada, where the payor parent earns business income, or where the payor parent’s income varies significantly from year-to-year. When else might the amount of child support payable differ from the Table amount? The amount of child support payable may deviate from the Table amount for a number of reasons, including where the payor parent can prove that the Table amount of child support would cause them “undue hardship”, where the payor parent’s income is over $150,000, where the child is at or over the age of majority, or where the claim for child support is brought against a step-parent. How is child support calculated when parenting time is shared? The amount of time the children spend with each parent must be factored into the calculation of basic child support payable. If the children spend more than 60% of their time with one parent, then only the payor parent’s income matters to the calculation and generally speaking, the amount of child support payable is 100% of the Table amount. On the other hand, in shared parenting arrangements (i.e., where the children live with each parent at least 40% of the time), child support is typically calculated by way of a “set-off” of the Table amount each parent would have paid the other were they the primary parent. The difference between the two Table amounts is what the parent with the higher income pays the other parent. How is child support calculated in split custody situations? In split custody arrangements where each parent has one or more of the children in their care, child support is calculated for each parent based on their income and the number of children that live with them. The amount of child support payable is the difference between the amount that each spouse would otherwise pay if a child support order were sought against each of the parents. In other words, the amount that actually changes hands between the parents in a split custody arrangement is the difference between the two amounts. How are special or extraordinary expenses calculated? The rules relating to special or extraordinary expenses are set out in section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines. If an expense qualifies as a special or extraordinary expense, each parent must contribute to the expense, regardless of which parent is the primary parent. The default under family law is that special or extraordinary expenses are paid in proportion to the parents’ incomes. For example, if Parent A earns $75,000 per year and Parent B earns $25,000, then Parent A contributes 75% and Parent B contributes 25% toward special or extraordinary expenses. Note that the parents can agree to something other than proportionate sharing, for example, in a Separation Agreement whereby the parents agree to share the special and extraordinary expenses equally, regardless of their incomes. How do I get child support in BC? Payments of child support can be set out in a written agreement between the parents (for example, a Separation Agreement). If the parents cannot agree, they can try mediation or negotiation through legal counsel. If neither of those options works, proceedings will need to be commenced by one of the parents to obtain an order of the British Columbia Provincial Court (in Family Court) or the British Columbia Supreme Court. Bronson Jones & Company LLP’s family lawyers in Vancouver can help to resolve your child support issues, whether by negotiated agreement or court order. Call us (toll-free) at 1-855-852-5100 to schedule your free initial consultation.