Whenever a client’s relationship breaks down, we consider whether child support and spousal support come into play. They are different things and different rules apply. Here are some quick facts about child and spousal support in Alberta.
- Child support is automatic. Every child is entitled to support from his or her parents, at least up until the age of majority. Support is the right of the child, not the parent who receives payment.
- A person who “stands in the place of a parent” still has this obligation.
- Spousal support is not automatic. A spouse claiming support must first prove an entitlement to support.
- In Bracklow v Bracklow ( 1 S.C.R. 420), the Supreme Court of Canada set out 3 grounds for possible entitlement: compensatory, non-compensatory (“needs”) and contractual.
- The Federal Child Support Guidelines set out the amounts payable in basic monthly child support in divorce cases and courts rarely allow deviations from the guideline amount. The Alberta Child Support Guidelines apply when the parents are not married.
- The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines set out a range of amounts payable in monthly support and courts routinely deviate from the suggested range because these guidelines are only advisory (not binding).
- Adult Interdependent Partners (“Common law” spouses) may also have an obligation to support each other.
- Basic monthly child support amounts in the Child Support Guidelines are determined by reference to the payor parent’s income (usually the amount on line 150 of the payor’s tax return), the number of children and the province where the payor parent resides.
- Monthly spousal support amounts are calculated in the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines by comparing the two spouses’ disposable income, calculated “net” of any child support obligations.
- There are two aspects to child support: basic support (also called “section 3 support”) and “special and extraordinary expenses” (also called “section 7 expenses”)
- Basic support is generally meant to contribute to those everyday requirements of every child, such as food, shelter, clothing and schooling.
- “Special and extraordinary expenses” are those expenses that are unique to the child, such as child care costs to allow a parent to go to work, or orthodontic braces or specialty education (this is an area of considerable debate). Parents typically share the expenses based on their respective incomes.
- All aspects of spousal support can be negotiated between the spouses – entitlement, payment by lump sum or by installments, amount and duration of payments.
- Child support is payable at least until the child reaches the age of majority. In certain circumstances (such as a child living at home to attend university classes full-time), child support is payable when the “child” is otherwise considered an adult.
- Courts cannot take “spousal misconduct” into account when making an order for spousal support.
These are just the basics of support. If you need more information, we invite you to come in and see us.