The Survey of Child Support Awards:
Analysis of Phase 2 Data Collected Through January 31, 2002

2003-FCY-4E

3.0 DESCRIPTION OF CASES

3.1 Source of Child Support Order Information

Data-capture clerks were required to determine whether a case represented an original divorce order or a variation order. They were also required to indicate the type of judgement or order used. Of the 33,240 cases, 82 percent were interim orders under federal legislation or divorce orders, and 15.9 percent were interim or final variation orders. No information was available on whether the remaining 2.1 percent of cases were original divorce orders or variations.

Figure 3.1 presents a breakdown of the types of divorce orders or judgements used to complete the survey instrument. The most common type used was a divorce order that included a child support order (52.1 percent), followed by a divorce order silent on child support (31.6 percent). 9 Interim child support orders were reported in 10.9 percent of cases.

Of a total of 5,273 variations, a substantial majority (88.3 percent) were final variation orders, followed by 9.7 percent interim variation orders.

Figure 3.1 Type of Order Under the Divorce Act

3.2 Disposition of Order

One item on the instrument asks for the final disposition of the order. Due to the potential for confusion regarding the distinction between “consent” and “uncontested” dispositions, these categories were collapsed. Only 3,262 cases (9.9 percent) with non-missing data (n=32,991) on this variable were contested; 28,946 cases (87.7 percent) were coded as consent/uncontested, and in 783 cases (2.4 percent) the disposition was unknown.

Substantial differences were found in the disposition of divorce orders and variations. Of the total number of divorce orders (n=27,254), 6.2 percent were contested and 91.2 percent were coded as consent/uncontested. However, of the 5,273 variations, 26.4 percent were contested and only 69 percent were consent/uncontested.

3.3 Legal Representation

In the majority of cases with non-missing data (n=33,104), the mother was reported as having legal representation (24,776 or 74.8 percent). Of cases with non-missing data on legal representation for the father (n=33,052), the majority also had representation (20,570 or 62.2 percent), although the proportion was not as high as with mothers. A total of 28,340 cases (85.3 percent) reported legal representation for at least one parent, and 17,006 cases (51.2 percent of the total sample) reported representation for both parents. Only 325 cases (1.4 percent of non-missing data) reported legal representation for a government agency. Government agencies would include social assistance or enforcement agencies, but exclude Legal Aid clinics.

Legal representation was also analyzed separately for cases involving divorce orders and variations. Cases involving divorce orders were less likely to have legal representation for mothers (74.2 percent), fathers (59.9 percent) and government agencies (0.4 percent) than were cases involving variations (75.6 percent for mothers, 71.6 percent for fathers and 4 percent for government agencies).

3.4 Issues Dealt within Orders

Figure 3.2 presents the issues dealt with in the orders, including both divorce orders and variations. 10 The most frequent issue was child support (72.5 percent of all cases), followed by custody (57.8 percent) and access (53.1 percent). Spousal support was an issue in one fifth of the orders (21.2 percent).

Figure 3.2 Issues Dealt with in Court Orders

Issues dealt with in orders were also analyzed separately for divorce orders and variations, and the results are presented in Figure 3.3. Child support was more likely to be dealt with in variations (97.2 percent) than in divorce orders (67.4 percent). Most other issues were considerably less likely to be dealt with in variations than in divorce orders, with the exception of arrears, award termination provisions and review clauses.

Figure 3.3 Issues Dealt with in Divorce Orders and Variation Orders

Additional analyses were conducted to determine the most common combinations of issues that were dealt with in divorce orders and variations. These are presented in Table 3.1. While the combination of child support/custody/access was the most common in divorce orders (24.6 percent), child support was the only issue dealt with in more than one third of variations (37.2 percent). Also, combinations of issues that included arrears were considerably more common in variations than in divorce orders.

3.5 Spousal Support Awards

A total of 3,352 cases (10.1 percent of the total sample) had a valid (non-zero) spousal support award amount that was payable monthly, annually, or in a lump sum. It should be noted that, due to the nature of the survey, these only represent cases in which children were involved. Of these cases, the majority (86.8 percent) had awards payable monthly. In 375 cases, or 11.2 percent of the cases involving spousal support, the award was a lump sum, and in 66 cases (2 percent) an annual spousal support amount was specified.

The monthly spousal award amount ranged from $1 to $15,000. Almost three quarters of the monthly awards (71.7 percent) were $1,000 or less. The lump sum awards ranged from $1 to $2,500,000. Fifty-six of the 66 cases of annual spousal support had an amount of $1. It should be noted that the Divorce Act stipulates that spousal awards are to be considered after child support and, for this reason, they are sometimes quite low. Even so, these amounts are often included in the order so that they can be reconsidered at a later time.

Table 3.1 Number of Cases Reporting Most Frequent Combinations of Issues Dealt within Divorce Orders and Variations1
Combinations of issues for Divorce Orders n %
Child support/custody/access Child support/custody/access/spousal support 6,706 3,618 24.6 13.3
Child support only 1,105 4.1
Custody/access 870 3.2
Child support/custody 758 2.8
Child support/custody/access/spousal support/award termination provision 749 2.7
Child support/custody/access/award termination provision 727 2.7
Child support/custody/access/other issue 608 2.2
Child support/custody/access/review clause 416 1.5
Custody only 344 1.3
Child support/custody/spousal support 307 1.1
Child support/spousal support 284 1.0
Other combination 3,467 12.7
Missing 7,295 26.8
Child support only 1,963 37.2
Child support/arrears 737 14.0
Child support/custody/access 536 10.2
Child support/custody 190 3.6
Child support/award termination provision 178 3.4
Child support/access 161 3.1
Child support/custody/access/arrears Child support/spousal support Child support/arrears/review clause 120 96 77 2.3 1.8 1.5
Child support/access/arrears 66 1.3
Child support/arrears/other issue 55 1.0
Child support/custody/arrears 54 1.0
Child support/custody/access/spousal support 51 1.0
Other combination 957 18.1
Missing 34 0.6

1 n for divorce orders=27,254. n for variations=5,273.

A total of 3,233 of the spousal support cases specified the paying spouse. In 3,187 cases (98.6 percent) the husband was the paying spouse, while in only 46 cases (1.4 percent) the wife was the payor.

3.6 Number and Age of Children

Data were available on the number of children included in all but 233 cases. The majority of cases included either one child (n=13,259; 40.2 percent) or two children (n=14,740; 44.7 percent). Three children were reported in 12.4 percent (n=4,105) of cases. Because relatively few cases involved four or more children (n=903; 2.7 percent), they were collapsed into a single category for purposes of subsequent analyses.

It is not possible to determine exactly how many children over the age of majority are present in the database, since only year of birth is requested on the instrument for each child involved in the case. However, an estimate of this number was computed. It is probably an overestimate, since it assumes that a child who reached the age of majority at any point during the year of the judgement would have been regarded as over the age of majority at the time of the judgement. This estimate indicated that there was at least one child over the age of majority in 4,766 cases (14.3 percent of the total), which represents 5,813 children. Figure 3.4 presents the breakdown of cases of children determined to be the age of majority or older. The majority of children were 18 (32 percent) or 19 (27.3 percent) years of age.

Of the 5,813 children over the age of majority, 5,685 were in cases decided in 1998 through 2001. A total of 514 (9 percent) children over the age of majority were in 1998 cases; 1,969 children over the age of majority (34.6 percent) were in 1999 cases; 1,712 children over the age of majority (30.1 percent) were in cases decided in 2000; and 1490 children over the age of majority (26.2 percent) were in 2001 cases.

Figure 3.4 Age Breakdown of Children Over the Age of Majority

The revised survey instrument for Phase 2 also asked for the number of children treated as under the age of majority and the number of children treated as over the age of majority when this information was available. There was at least one child treated as over the age of majority in 1,459 cases (4.4 percent of the total).

3.7 Type of Custody Arrangements

Figure 3.5 presents the type of custody arrangement in each case according to the definitions of custody provided in the Guidelines, which refers mainly to principal residence of the children. In the majority of cases (79.3 percent), the mother had sole custody; fathers had sole custody in 8.7 percent of cases. Shared custody (the child spends at least 40 percent of the time with each parent) was 6.2 percent. Split custody (one or more children have primary residence with the mother and one or more children have primary residence with the father) was 5 percent. This classification is based on terms used in the federal Guidelines. In some of the “sole custody” cases, there was a form of legal joint custody or joint guardianship, but the child did not spend at least 40 percent of the time with each parent, hence under section 9 of the Guidelines this did not qualify as “shared custody.”

Figure 3.5 Type of Custody Arrangements (as defined by the Guidelines)

3.8 Access Terms

The survey instrument requested information on the terms of access arrangements for those cases in which access was mentioned. Table 3.2 presents the types of access terms reported. The most frequent type of access was “reasonable/liberal” (51.3 percent), followed by “scheduled/ specified” (22.3 percent). Other types of access arrangements were considerably less frequent, and in 15.6 percent of cases the type of access terms was unknown.

Table 3.2 Type of Access Terms1
Access terms n %
Reasonable/liberal 16,441 51.3
Scheduled/specified 7,145 22.3
Other 2,189 6.8
Not applicable 1,265 3.9
Unknown 5,009 15.6

1Total n=33,240, missing cases=1,191.
Source of data: Survey of Child Support Awards; January 31, 2002 version.

3.9 Child Support Award Amounts

Data were available on monthly child support award amounts for a total of 26,239 cases, representing 78.9 percent of the total. 11 Across all cases, monthly child support amounts ranged from $1 through $9,750, with a median value of $427 (mean=$544). 12

It was indicated in 54 cases (0.2 percent of total cases) that an annual amount was awarded for child support. The range of annual awards was $1 to $40,800. Lump sum child support awards were reported in 215 cases (0.7 percent of total cases) and ranged from $102 to $406,667.

Further analysis of annual and lump sum child support awards suggested that many of these were for special or extraordinary expenses awarded for post-secondary education for children over the age of majority. A total of 34 percent of the cases reporting lump sum support awards and 24.1 percent of cases with annual awards also included at least one child over the age of majority, compared to 13.2 percent of cases including only monthly payments. Further, 38.9 percent of cases with annual support payments included special or extraordinary expenses, compared to 23.7 percent of cases with lump sum awards and 36.4 percent of cases with only monthly awards. Finally, 22.2 percent of cases with annual awards reported special or extraordinary expenses awarded for post-secondary education, compared to 9.8 percent of cases with lump sum awards and 6.4 percent of cases with only monthly awards.

In the cases with a non-missing child support award amount and the paying parent specified, the father was the payor in 93.5 percent of the cases (n=24,766) while the mother was the payor in 6 percent of cases (n=1,590). The payor of child support was coded as some other person in 29 cases (0.1 percent). Information on the paying parent was not available or not applicable in 94 cases (0.4 percent) with valid child support award amounts.

3.10 Paying and Receiving Parent Incomes

A non-zero income for the paying parent was provided in 25,489 cases (76.7 percent of the total sample) and was “not stated” in 6,608 cases. As would be expected, since the receiving parent’s income is not required in straightforward applications of the Guidelines, a non-zero receiving parent’s income was specified in fewer cases (14,710 or 44.3 percent of the total). In cases where it would be expected that the recipient parent’s income would be specified (i.e. shared or split custody), 63.3 percent of the cases had a recipient parent income included.

The median annual income for paying parents was $36,000 (mean=$43,532) and ranged from $1 to $6,000,000. The median income for receiving parents was $25,140 (mean=$30,374), and ranged from $39 through $2,675,940.

For purposes of additional analysis of income information, income of paying and receiving parents was collapsed into seven categories:

Figure 3.6 presents the categorized income levels for the paying and receiving parents. The most frequent income category for paying parents was $30,000 to $44,999, with 28.3 percent of non-missing responses falling into this category. A total of 10 percent of paying parents fell into the lowest income category, and 1.9 percent had incomes in excess of $150,000.

Figure 3.6 Paying and Receiving Parents' Annual Incomes

The pattern of income for receiving parents is somewhat different from paying parents, in that the most common income category for receiving parents is $15,000–$29,999 (36.1 percent of non-missing responses), followed by 24.6 percent in the $30,000–$44,999 range. The proportion of cases in the higher income ranges was considerably lower for receiving parents than for paying parents.

Figure 3.7 presents the proportion of paying and receiving parents with legal representation by categorized annual incomes. The proportion of paying parents with legal representation increased as income levels increased. Across the lower income levels, receiving parents more frequently had legal representation than paying parents; however, the proportion of receiving parents with legal representation tended to decrease as income levels increased. It should be noted that the most straightforward cases that would be least likely to involve legal representation for the receiving parents may not be included in this figure. The Guidelines only require the income of receiving parents to be provided in cases when there are special or extraordinary expenses, undue hardship, shared or split custody, or high incomes (over $150,000). When cases falling into one or more of these categories are examined separately, a higher proportion of cases in each recipient parent income level reported legal representation for the recipient parent. For example, among those cases, 85.1 percent of recipient parents in the $1–$14,999 income range reported legal representation; 80.2 percent of recipient parents in the $45,000–$59,000 income range reported legal representation; and 70.5 percent of recipient parents in the $75,000–$149,999 income range reported legal representation.

Figure 3.7 Percentage of Paying and Receiving Parents with Legal Representation by Annual Income

Parents’ income was also analyzed with respect to the disposition of the case (i.e. whether it proceeded by consent/uncontested or was contested). The median income of paying parents in cases resolved by consent/uncontested (n=22,076) was $36,000 (mean=$44,833); in contested cases (n=2,759) the comparable figures were quite similar (median=$37,608; mean=$45,127). The median income for receiving parents in consent/uncontested cases (n=12,915) was $25,586 (mean=$30,639); in contested cases (n=1,596) the median receiving parent income was $23,631 (mean=$26,636).

Figure 3.8 presents the proportion of cases that were contested by paying and receiving parents’ annual income. The pattern for paying parents was not consistent across income levels; however, for receiving parents the proportion of contested cases tended to decrease as income increased. However, due to the large number of cases missing data about recipient parent income, this finding should be treated with caution.

Figure 3.8 Percentage of Contested Cases by Paying and Receiving Parents' Annual Incomes

3.11 Determination of Award Amount

Figure 3.9 indicates the method used to determine the amount of the child support award according to the information available to the data-capture clerks. In 17,185 cases (53.2 percent of non-missing responses to this item), the file indicated that the Guidelines were followed. 13 The second most frequently reported method was a prior order or agreement that dealt with child support (3,639 cases; 11.3 percent). In 28.8 percent of the cases, the method used for determining the support amount was coded as “unknown/not stated” or no indication was given of how the support amount was calculated. It is very likely that some portion of the cases marked as “not stated”, as relying on a previous order or agreement or as having no indication of how support was calculated, did in fact use the Guidelines. Therefore, analyses using this variable should be interpreted with caution.

Figure 3.9 How Award Amount was Determined

To find out whether there were any differences in the method used to determine the award amount for children over the age of majority, cases in which all children were under the age of majority and cases in which all children were over the age of majority 14 were identified. Figure 3.10 presents the method used to determine the child support award amounts separately for these two groups. Cases in which all children were above the age of majority were less likely to report that the Guidelines had been used than were cases in which all children were under the age of majority (42.4 percent compared to 54.2 percent, respectively).

Figure 3.10 How Award Amount was Determined for Cases Where All Children are Either Under or Over the Age of Majority

In order to determine whether the proportion of cases reporting that the Federal Child Support Guidelines were followed (according to information in the file) has changed since the implementation of Phase 2 of this study, cases were rank-ordered according to the year of judgement from 1998 through 2001. Results indicated an increase in the proportion of cases reporting that the Guidelines were used from 1998 (53.4 percent) to 1999 (56.6 percent), followed by decreases in 2000 (51.4 percent) and 2001 (51.1 percent). As noted above, however, these percentages are likely to be lower than the actual proportions, due to the number of cases in which the method of calculating the child support award amount was unknown.

3.12 Awards for Children at or Over the Age of Majority

The item on the survey asking about discretionary awards for children at or over the age of majority was only completed for 211 children, which suggests that such awards are rarely used or that information regarding these awards was not readily available to the data-capture clerks.

Further, since the question asked for the discretionary amount for children over the age of majority only if they were not included in the table amount for all children, it is likely that child support awards for some children over the age of majority are included in the total child support amount and/or are reflected in special expenses for post-secondary education. The amounts of these awards for cases in which this item was completed ranged from $50 to $9,200.

3.13 Award of Special or Extraordinary Expenses

In a child support order the court may, on either spouses’ request, provide an amount to cover special or extraordinary expenses, including child care, medical/dental insurance premiums, health-related expenses, primary/secondary school, post-secondary education, or extracurricular activities. The survey requests information on whether special or extraordinary expenses were awarded in each case and, for those cases in which they were, whether an amount and/or proportion of the paying parent’s share of these expenses was specified. The instrument also asks which specific expenses were awarded according to those contained in section 7 of the Guidelines.

A total of 10,553 cases (31.7 percent of the total sample) indicated that special or extraordinary expenses were awarded. In 5,246 of these cases (15.8 percent of the total sample or 49.7 percent of the cases in which special or extraordinary expenses were awarded), a proportion of these expenses to be paid by the paying parent was specified. In 1,805 cases (17.1 percent of the cases in which special expenses were awarded), neither an amount nor proportion were specified. 15

Of the 4,963 cases that specified the monthly amount of the paying parent’s share of special or extraordinary expenses, they ranged from $2 to $1,500, with a median amount of $113 (mean=$151). 16 Of the 5,246 cases in which the paying parent’s proportion of special expenses was specified, the proportion varied from 10 percent to 100 percent (median proportion was 58 percent). The most common proportion specified was 50 percent, in 1,461 cases, followed by a proportion of 100 percent in 665 cases. An annual payment amount for special expenses was provided in 132 cases and ranged from $3 to $30,000 (median=$1,450; mean=$3,134). An amount for lump sum special expenses was indicated in 148 cases and ranged from $1 to $125,000 (median=$1,000; mean=$3,619).

Section 7 of the Guidelines allows the court to award special or extraordinary expenses in one or more of six categories. Figure 3.11 presents the number and proportion of cases out of the total sample in which each specific type of expense was awarded. The most commonly awarded type of expense was child care or day-care expenses (12 percent of total cases). This was followed by medical/dental insurance premiums at 10.6 percent, and extracurricular activities expenses at 10.1 percent. The least frequently awarded expenses were primary/secondary education (5.9 percent) and post-secondary education (6.3 percent).

Figure 3.11 Percentage of Cases Specifying Special or Extraordinary Expenses Under Section 7 of the Guidelines

Figure 3.12 presents the proportion of cases in which all children were either under or over the age of majority 17 and in which the type of special or extraordinary expense was specified. Approximately equal proportions of cases in each group awarded health-related expenses. However, as expected, child care or day-care expenses were much more likely to be awarded in cases in which all children were under rather than over the age of majority (13.9 percent compared to 0.4 percent, respectively). Similarly, expenses for post-secondary education were considerably more likely to be awarded in cases in which all children were over the age of majority (18.6 percent) rather than under the age of majority (5 percent).

Figure 3.12 Percentage of Cases Specifying Special or Extraordinary Expenses Under Section 7 of the Guidelines for Cases with Children Under and Over the Age of Majority

Of the 8,933 cases that specified which of the special or extraordinary expenses were awarded, the majority of cases (51.3 percent) had one expense awarded. Considerably fewer cases had two (22.5 percent), three (12.1 percent), four (5.7 percent), five (4.4 percent) or six (4 percent) special or extraordinary expenses awarded. Table 3.3 presents the most common combinations of special or extraordinary expenses awarded.

3.14 Undue Hardship Applications

Undue hardship applications were identified in only 188 (0.6 percent) of the total cases in the sample. 18 Of these applications, 174 (92.6 percent) were brought by the paying parent, and 12 (6.4 percent) by the receiving parent; there were two cases involving cross-applications. In 48 cases (25.5 percent), the incomes of other household members were used in the standard of living test; they were not used in 52 cases (27.7 percent), and were unknown in 88 cases (46.8 percent).

Table 3.3 Number of Cases Awarding Most Frequent Combinations of Special or Extraordinary Expenses 1
Combination of expenses n %2
Child care/day-care only 2,082 23.3
Medical/dental insurance premiums only 727 8.1
Extracurricular activities only 679 7.6
Post-secondary education only 463 5.2
Health-related expenses only 424 4.7
Child/day-care/medical/dental insurance premiums
Health-related expenses, primary-secondary school expenses,
Post-secondary education/extracurricular activities
358 4.0
Medical/dental insurance premiums, health-related expenses 342 3.8
Child/day-care, extracurricular expenses 292 3.3
Child/day-care, medical, dental insurance premiums 275 3.1
Medical/dental insurance premiums, health-related expenses,
Primary-secondary school expenses, post-secondary education,
Extracurricular activities
247 2.8
Primary-secondary school expenses only 204 2.3
Medical-dental insurance premiums, health-related expenses,
Post-secondary education
195 2.2
Health-related expenses, extracurricular activities 169 1.9
Primary-secondary school expenses, extracurricular activities 163 1.8
Medical, dental insurance premiums, health-related expenses,
Extracurricular activities
152 1.7
Medical/dental insurance premiums, health-related expenses,
Post-secondary education, extracurricular activities
143 1.6
Other combinations 2,018 22.6

Source of data: Survey of Child Support Awards; January 31, 2002 version.

Of the 174 cases in which applications for undue hardship were brought by the paying parent, 114 (65.5 percent) resulted in a decrease of the Guidelines amount, 31 (17.8 percent) were denied, none resulted in an order amount higher than the Guidelines amount, and the outcomes of 29 (16.7 percent) applications were unknown or missing. Of the 12 cases in which applications were brought by the receiving parent, only one resulted in an increase of the Guidelines amount and four were denied. Two of the cases resulted in an order that was less than the Guidelines amount. The outcome was unknown in five cases. Of the two cross-applications, one resulted in a decrease of the Guidelines amount, and the outcome was unknown in one case.

3.15 Variation Applications

As noted above, the database included 5,273 cases coded by data-capture clerks as involving variations to child support orders. In 48.6 percent (n=2,399) of cases for which data were available, the applicant was the receiving parent. The paying parent was the applicant in 43 percent (n=2,121) of cases, and in 8.4 percent (n=416) of cases, parents were cross-applicants.

Of 3,495 variation applications with non-missing data, 1,714 (49 percent) resulted in a decrease of the face value amount, while 40.2 percent (n=1,404) resulted in an increase of the face value amount. The application was denied in 1.5 percent of cases and resulted in a termination order in 9.3 percent of cases. The outcome of the application was not stated in 33.7 percent of cases. While almost 50 percent of variation applications resulted in a decrease, changes in the tax treatment mean that a decrease in the face value amount does not necessarily mean a decrease in the amount of child support that a recipient parent will get to keep after tax, depending on the receiving parent’s income. Before the tax changes, receiving parents paid tax on child support awards, meaning that the net amount was less than the award amount if the recipient’s total income was high enough to be taxable. Since child support awards are no longer taxable, a decrease in the award could result in an actual increase in the net amount for the receiving parent. However, since paying parents can no longer claim child support as a tax deduction, an increase in the face value amount always means that the paying parent pays more child support and that the receiving parent receives more support.

Of the cases in which a reason for the variation application was coded, one common reason was the implementation of the Guidelines. As would be expected, this reason was given more often shortly after implementation of the Guidelines. Other reasons given for the variation application included “change in income,” “change of custody” and “child independent.”

Figure 3.13 presents the outcome of variation applications by applicant. Of applications brought by the receiving parent, 66.7 percent resulted in an increase of the face value amount, 29.3 percent resulted in a decrease, 3.3 percent resulted in a termination order, and 0.7 percent were denied. Of applications brought by the paying parent, 14.1 percent resulted in an increase of the face value amount, 69.6 percent resulted in a decrease of the face value amount, 14.2 percent resulted in a termination order, and 2.1 percent were denied. Of the cross-applications, the majority resulted in an increase of the face value amount (44.8 percent). Fewer cases of cross-applications resulted in a decrease (42.1 percent), termination order (11.9 percent) or denial of the application (1.1 percent).

Figure 3.13 Decision of Variation Application by Applicant

To look at this issue from a different perspective, of the 1,396 variation applications in which the applicant was known and that resulted in an increase of the face value support amount, 75.1 percent were brought by the receiving parent and 16.5 percent by the paying parent; 8.4 percent were cross-applications. Of the 1,712 variation applications that resulted in a decrease of the face value support amount, 26.9 percent were brought by the receiving parent and 66.7 percent by the paying parent; 6.4 percent were cross-applications.

3.16 Adherence to Section 13 of the Child Support Guidelines

Section 13 of the Guidelines specifies information that should be included in a child support order. In the revised survey instrument used in Phase 2, data-capture clerks were explicitly asked to indicate, by means of a checklist, which of the individual components contained in section 13 were included in each order. Since section 13 applies only to cases in which there was a child support order, only cases in which child support was dealt with in the order were included as the base sample (n=24,103). Figure 3.14 indicates the proportion of cases reporting the inclusion of each piece of information specified in section 13.

Figure 3.14 Percentage of Cases Containing Information Required by Section 13 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines

A substantial proportion of cases had information on both the name 19 and the date of birth of each child to whom the order relates (89.1 percent and 86.9 percent, respectively). Approximately three quarters of the cases had information on the income of any spouse whose income was used to determine the child support amount (77 percent) as well as the dates on which payments are due (74.2 percent). A total of 54.2 percent of cases had the amount of child support as determined from the appropriate table.

With respect to the information required when special or extraordinary expenses are awarded, only cases with child support awards and special or extraordinary expenses were included (n=8,313). Of these cases, 73.1 percent were coded as having the amount or proportion of any extraordinary expense awarded specified. A total of 58.7 percent of the cases reported having the particulars of all special or extraordinary expenses awarded. Nearly one half (48.2 percent) reported the identity of the child to whom any special or extraordinary expense related. It should be noted, however, that 36.5 percent of cases with child support awards and special expenses awarded had only one child, and therefore it could be argued that it was not necessary to specify the child by name.

Section 13 also requires that the amount considered appropriate for any child over the age of majority be listed in a child support order. Determining compliance with this component of section 13 is problematic. Although 1,235 cases in the database included a child support order which indicated that there were children treated as over the age of majority, it is probable that some unknown proportion of these children were not considered as eligible for child support when the child support amount was determined, and thus would not have an amount reported under section 13. However, this is the best base figure available for determining adherence to this component of section 13. Using this figure, a total of 19.2 percent of the cases were coded as having the amount for a child over the age of majority. For the reason noted, however, this figure should be treated with caution.


  • 9 The majority of the cases silent on child support are from Ontario, because at some court sites, child support orders are not included in divorce orders.

  • 10 This does not include issues dealt with in supporting documents available to the data-capture clerks.

  • 11 Cases with monthly child support award amounts in excess of $6,000 were examined manually in order to determine whether these awards were accurate, given the other information available about the case. As a result, monthly award amounts in excess of $10,000 for 24 cases were excluded from these analyses, as they were determined to be anomalies or outliers.

  • 12 This represents the total child support award amount, which includes any “add-ons” for special or extraordinary expenses.

  • 13 Four provinces, Québec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Manitoba have received a designation for their provincial guidelines. This means that the provincial child support guidelines have provisions that differ from the Federal guidelines. The designation allows those provisions to apply to all child support cases, even those that would otherwise be dealt with under the Divorce Act. Quebec and Prince Edward Island have each prepared their own tables and other provisions that differ from the Federal Guidelines. New Brunswick and Manitoba use the federal tables for all cases but have incorporated minor modifications to other provisions of the Federal Guidelines. Alberta has not adopted guidelines. However, in practice, Alberta courts are using the Federal Child Support Guidelines for all cases. The remaining provinces and territories have adopted the Federal Child Support Guidelines for use in their jurisdictions.

  • 14 See page 15 for a discussion of the limitations of this estimate.

  • 15 It should be noted that if an amount for special or extraordinary expenses is not specified in an order, then the expenses are not enforceable by the provincial/territorial Maintenance Enforcement Program agencies.

  • 16 Monthly special or extraordinary expenses amounts in excess of $1,000 were examined manually to determine whether these amounts were accurate according to other information in the case. On this basis, eight cases with monthly amounts greater than $1,500 were excluded from analysis of this variable. In addition, 33 cases with a monthly amount of $0 were also excluded.

  • 17 See page 15 for a discussion of the limitations of this estimate.

  • 18 It should be noted that the data probably do not accurately reflect the number of cases in which undue hardship is raised. If a claim for undue hardship is raised in an application and subsequently fails, there may be no record of the application in the case file.

  • 19 It is possible that the child’s name would be missing in some cases with only one child, since in these cases the child to whom the order relates would be clear.

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