Child Support – The Basics

Do I have to pay child support?

If you are in a romantic relationship and living with your child’s other biological parent, you do not need to pay child support to your other half. However, the second you break up or start living separate and apart then child support is payable for the benefit of the child.

If you live separate and apart from your child’s other parent, then you may have to pay child support if the child does not live with you fulltime. Child support is money paid by one parent to the other parent to help cover the costs of raising the child. The purpose of child support is to benefit the child, so the money follows the child. If the child lives mostly with the mother, then the father is the one who pays child support. If the child lives mostly with the father, then the mother pays child support. If the child’s time is spent equally with both parents, then both of them must pay child support to each other for the benefit of their child.

How much do I pay for child support?

The amount paid of child support that a parent (or each parent) must pay is determined using the Federal Child Support Guidelines or the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. If the parent’s have more than one child, then child support is paid for each child.

In shared parenting arrangements, each parent is required to pay child support. Each parent must determine their child support amount based on their respective guideline incomes. The parent with the higher income pays an offset amount of child support, which is their amount reduced by the amount that would be paid by the other parent.

Each parent may also be required to pay for the child’s “extra” expenses for things such as childcare fees, out-of-pocket expenses for health and dental, educational and recreational activities. These extra-ordinary expenses are usually split based on each parent’s respective guideline incomes. The higher earning parent pays a higher percentage of the fee than the lower earning parent.

There are a few exceptions to keep in mind, for example, a parent that has a high income or a parent that has an extremely low income. It may also be inappropriate to rely on the Guidelines in situations where a payor or child have other factors that need to be considered. If a parent is unable to pay child support in based on the Guidelines, they should consult with a lawyer to discuss their options.

In most situations, determining child support payments is a simple process. Things can become a bit more complicated in situations such as:

  • A payor parent refuses to get a “legit” job to avoid paying child support.
  • A payor parent is self-employed, in a partnership or has a corporation.
  • A payor or recipient wants the other parents new spouses income considered to change the child support payment amounts in their favour.
  • A payor disputes the “extra” costs payable for the child.

In more difficult or complex family matters, one parent is often accused of “hiding money” to reduce their child support payments. If parents are unable agree on how much a parent actually earns, or if the biological parents are not able to agree as to whether a non-parent’s income should be considered to discount or increase payments, then third parties may need to become involved to help the parents resolve the issue. In complex situations, it is important for parents to work with professionals that are experienced with Guideline Income disputes and the complexities that may be involved. The Edmonton Family Network has can provide referrals to exceptional third-party service providers that may be able to assist.

The Edmonton Family Network was designed to be used as a resource to anyone dealing with a difficult family situation. The Edmonton Family Network is familiar with the current limitations of the legal system and the barriers many people face trying to access and afford legal services. The Edmonton Family Network aims to educate and connect people with affordable resources and service providers that can help.

Edmonton Family Network has connections to legal service providers and community support services.

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