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Child Support Guidelines – What You Need To Know

May 4 2017

What are they?
Child Support Guidelines are legal requirements that have been set through regulations to the Divorce Act, a federal law, and the Family Law Act, a BC provincial law. The Guidelines describe how the amount of child support is determined as well as including tables for each province indicating how much a payor must pay each month. These amounts are based on the payor’s income and the number of children.

How do they affect me?
Under federal and provincial laws, if you and your partner have dependent children (until the age of 19), both of you have a responsibility to ensure their care, education, health and other related needs are met. These laws apply to all separated parents, whether they were married or lived common-law.

If you and your spouse are separated and your children are living with you, it is understood that you will be meeting your support obligations by taking care of them. Your partner is required to fulfill his/her legal obligations by paying child support.

I’ve heard there are exceptions to the Guidelines?
There are very few exceptions to the Guidelines and they can be difficult to employ. The Guidelines allow for situations where you and your spouse are sharing your children’s time equally or the payor spouse is experiencing financial hardship. Once a child is over the age of 19, but still dependent on the parents due to disability or post-secondary education, the Guidelines allow for the financial needs of the child to be considered in setting the child support amount.

What are special and extraordinary expenses?
These are expenses considered to be over and above regular expenses covered by child support and are to be paid proportionately by both parents. They can include things like childcare, dental care (braces) and medical expenses including speech therapy or counselling. The Child Support Guidelines stipulate that these expenses should be split according to the individual incomes of each parent. There are tax considerations in determining how much each parent pays so you should seek professional advice.

What’s the difference between agreements and orders?
A child support agreement is a contract between the parents, in that it’s in writing and signed by both parties – the payor and the recipient. It sets out the amount to be paid each month by the payor as well as the amount each party is to contribute to special expenses. An agreement also includes details such as incomes and review dates.

If both parties are unable to reach an agreement on child support payments, then they can apply to the courts where a judge will determine this for them. This judgment is called an order and provides similar details to an agreement such as incomes, monthly payments and details on special expenses.

Agreements are the preferred option over orders because they not only save time and money, but they also bypass the courts.

What happens if child support payments aren’t paid?
In BC, a government agency called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) is responsible for ensuring that child support payments – either through agreements or orders – are collected. If payments are not made, FMEP has the legal authority to recover those amounts through a number of avenues.

  • They can seize the income of the payor through wages, pensions, income tax refunds, even rental incomes as well as a bank account.
  • FMEP can also place a lien against a payor’s property. Depending on the circumstances, they may even obtain a court order for property to be sold in order to meet payment requirements.
  • The agency can place restrictions on credit card applications, ask ICBC to not issue or renew a driver’s license and even ask the federal government to refuse passport applications or renewals.

References:
Child Support in BC – People’s Law School, Revised 2013

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