The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step

Step 8: Determine if there is undue hardship

This step will help you figure out whether there is undue hardship in your situation. Worksheet 3 can also help you with the calculation you may have to do in this step.

Sometimes the amount of child support determined under the Federal Guidelines, when combined with other circumstances, may create undue hardship for you or your child. If this happens, a different child support amount may be appropriate. Either parent can claim undue hardship.

To prove undue hardship you must show two things:

  1. That your circumstances would make it hard to:
    • pay the required amount; or
    • support the child on the amount of support you receive.
  2. That your household’s standard of living is lower than the other parent’s household’s standard of living.

The Federal Guidelines include a list of circumstances that could cause undue hardship, such as:

  • unusually high debts that you reasonably incurred to support the family before the separation or to earn a living;
  • unusually high costs associated with access to your child;
  • a legal duty to support a dependent child from another relationship;
  • a legal duty to support any other person, such as a former spouse or a new spouse who is too ill or disabled to be able to support himself or herself.

Please note that there may be other circumstances not listed here that could also be considered to cause undue hardship.

How to compare standards of living

You can use Worksheet 3 to compare the standards of living of the two households. This worksheet is based on the standard-of-living test found in the Federal Guidelines. Or, you may decide to use other ways to compare the standards of living of your households if you think it is more appropriate in your circumstances.

If you need to go to court, the judge would likely apply the test found in the Federal Guidelines. The judge would take into account every member of both households. The judge would also consider the income of each household member in order to compare standards of living. To be a member of your household, the person needs to live with you. For example, other members of your household may include:

  • your new spouse or common-law partner;
  • any children living with you, including those of your new spouse or partner;
  • any person who shares or helps reduce your living expenses (for example, if your mother lives with you, she might contribute to pay for food and household bills; or the house may be hers and you may be living there without paying rent);
  • anyone that you or any of the other persons mentioned above are legally required to support or be supported by.

The purpose of the standard-of-living test is to determine which of the two households has a higher standard of living. If the household of the parent claiming undue hardship has a higher standard of living than the other parent’s household, the undue hardship claim cannot be accepted and the child support amount should not be changed.

However, if the standard of living is lower in the household of the parent claiming undue hardship, then the undue hardship claim might be accepted and the child support amount could be changed. This amount could be higher or lower than the amount you calculated using Steps 1 to 7. However, this new amount would be based on your incomes alone.

Recap

You have determined whether there are circumstances that create undue hardship for either of you or for your child. You have compared the standards of living in both households.

If you found that the standard of living in the household of the parent claiming undue hardship is lower than the standard of living in the other household, you have to decide whether the amount of child support should be higher or lower and by how much. You may want to copy all this information into section 11 of your Child Support Tool.

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