The Federal Child Support Guidelines: Step-by-Step
Step 7: Determine if there are special or extraordinary expenses
Either of you may ask for an amount for special or extraordinary expenses under the Federal Guidelines.
As explained in Step 6, the child support tables provide a starting point. You will now need to determine whether there are any special or extraordinary expenses in your situation. If there are, you will need to determine the amount that you should add to the basic table amount. Under the Federal Guidelines, this could happen if one of you has sole custody or if you split custody. If you share custody, you can use your discretion about how you share expenses based on the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of you and your children.
You can use Worksheet 2, to help you estimate an amount for special or extraordinary expenses and your share of that amount.
What are special or extraordinary expenses?
The Federal Guidelines define “special or extraordinary expenses” as expenses that are:
- necessary because they are in the child’s best interests; and
- reasonable given the means of the parents and the child and in light of the family’s spending patterns before the separation.
Special or extraordinary expenses are:
- child-care expenses that you may have to pay as a result of a job, an illness, a disability, or educational requirements for employment if your child spends most of the time with you;
- the portion of your medical and dental insurance premiums that provides coverage for your child;
- your child’s health-care needs that exceed $100 per year if the cost is not covered by insurance (for example, orthodontics, counselling, medication or eye care);
- expenses for post-secondary education;
- extraordinary expenses for your child’s primary education, secondary education or any other educational programs that meet your child’s particular needs; and
- extraordinary expenses for your child’s extracurricular activities.
An expense for education or extracurricular activities is extraordinary only if:
- it is more than you can reasonably pay based on your income and the amount of child support you receive; or
- it is not more than you can reasonably pay, but it is extraordinary when you take into account:
- your income and the amount of child support you receive;
- the nature and number of educational programs and extracurricular activities; the overall cost of the educational programs and activities;
- any special needs and talents of the child; and
- any other similar factors that are considered relevant.
It is best if you agree on which special or extraordinary expenses are reasonable and necessary in your situation. You can even include expenses like university tuition that you expect to have in the future. Keep your children’s best interests in mind. If you find it difficult to agree, a third party like a collaborative lawyer or a mediator may be able to help you.
Details to think about
When you are setting up your child support agreement, it is also a good idea to include the particulars of each expense, such as:
- what it is for (for example, hockey, soccer, dance lessons);
- the total cost;
- how much you each will contribute to the cost;
- the date payments are due;
- any other information you think might be relevant.
This will help you to avoid misunderstandings and conflict in the future. It will also make it easier to enforce expenses if the need arises. For example, expenses can usually only be enforced when the support agreement or order includes a specific dollar amount for each expense.
Determining an amount and calculating your share
As a general rule, parents share the amount determined for the expenses in proportion to their incomes. But you may agree to share the amount in a different way.
To determine a specific amount for each special or extraordinary expense, you will need to consider any subsidies, benefits or income tax deductions or credits relating to each expense and your eligibility to claim these amounts.
Robert and Cora
Robert and Cora live in British Columbia. They have a 15-year-old daughter named Li. When Cora and Robert decided to live apart and divorce, they agreed that Li would spend most of her time with Cora and Robert would pay child support, since Robert has to travel a lot for his job.
Robert earns about $80,000 per year. The table for British Columbia shows that the basic amount of support that someone with his income would pay for one child is $748 per month.
Next, Robert and Cora determine special or extraordinary expenses for Li. Li has been taking figure-skating lessons and dreams of becoming a champion. Robert and Cora want to help her follow her dream, but it is expensive. After they take into account any income tax deductions or credits that may apply to this activity, they estimate that it costs them about $12,000 per year to pay for lessons and rent ice time. They agree that it meets the definition of an “extraordinary expense” for an extracurricular activity and that it is reasonable given their means. Robert and Cora agree to share the expense in proportion to their incomes.
To determine Robert’s share of the expense they first add together his annual income of $80,000 and Cora’s annual income of $75,000 for a total of $155,000. Next, they divide Robert’s income of $80,000 by the total combined income of $155,000 and multiply that amount by the annual amount of the expense: $80,000 ÷ $155,000 x $12,000 = $6193.55. When they divide that number by 12, they find that Robert’s monthly share of this expense will be $516.13.
They add that amount to the table amount of $748 to find the total amount of child support that Robert will pay each month: $748 + $516.13 = $1,264.13.
You have now determined:
- whether you have special or extraordinary expenses that are necessary because they are in your child’s best interests and reasonable in light of your means and those of the child and in light of the family’s spending patterns before the separation;
- the specific dollar amount for those expenses; and
- how you will share them.
You now need to add the paying parent’s share of the special or extraordinary expenses to the basic amount determined in Step 6 to find the total monthly amount of child support. You can use sections 8 and 9 of your Child Support Tool to make that calculation.
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