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Child support: Things to know about basic and special expenses

Parents going through separation or divorce often feel overwhelmed by the process of establishing an appropriate child support arrangement. Even the legal language may seem strange in an already complicated and emotionally fraught time. To clarify these matters, let's go over some of the basic aspects of child support that parents can expect to encounter.

The parent responsible for paying child support is the payor, and the parent who receives child support is the recipient. Under Alberta's child support guidelines, the payor is responsible for paying basic child support, which is often called the "table" amount because each province and territory uses a table to calculate basic child support. Calculation of this table amount is addressed in Section 3 of the child support guidelines.

The table amount is based on these factors:

  • The payor's gross annual income
  • The territory or province where the payor resides
  • The number of children in the recipient's care who require support from the payor

The basic table amounts already account for usual income deductions, including taxes and the costs of child access.

Once the basic Section 3 expenses are calculated, parents can then turn to special expenses, which are addressed under Section 7 of the child support guidelines. Special expenses can be covered by either parent in proportion to each party's income. For the payor, then, the child support obligation is the basic table amount plus a portion of the special expenses.

Special expenses may include the following:

  • The cost of child care incurred by the recipient parent
  • A portion of the cost of the recipient parent's health insurance that covers the child
  • The cost of the child's health care needs beyond those covered by insurance -- for instance, eye care, counselling, orthodontics and medication
  • Expenses related to primary, secondary and post-secondary education
  • The cost of the child's extracurricular activities

When it comes to child support, know that whether parents reach an agreement in or out of the court, all must still follow the Child Support Guidelines. An Alberta child support lawyer can clarify your options and help you to reach an appropriate arrangement.

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