What Is Child Support?

After the separation of the parents, child support payments are the payments made by one parent to the other to help cover the costs of caring for the child[ren]. Typically, the parent who lives with the child[ren], or spends more time with the child[ren] (the custodial parent) will be entitled to receive child support payments from the parent who does not live with the child[ren], or spends less time with the child[ren] (the non-custodial parent).

Sometimes, the separating parents will be able to agree on shared parenting arrangements, or some other type of agreement, but ultimately decisions on who owes child support and in what amounts is a matter for the Courts. The Courts will require a variety of information, like the income levels of the parents, in order to determine the payments. After the appropriate information is collected child support is calculated according to the Federal Child Support Guidelines, and a child support order is made against the non-custodial parent. Alberta has its own Child Support Guidelines, but both are similar, and the remainder of this articles will apply to both sets of Guidelines unless stated otherwise.

Child Support Guidelines:

The goals of the Guidelines reflect the principles of fairness that the law strives towards. The Guidelines attempt to establish fair standards of support for the child[ren] that makes sure they continue to benefit from the support of both parents. They also attempt to reduce conflict, improve the efficiency of the process, and ensure that parents are treated consistently by establishing objective procedures.

The primary factor in determining how much the child support payments will be is the income of the non-custodial parent. Under the Guidelines, there are several methods the judge can use to determine child support payments. Usually, they will start with the non-custodial parents Income Tax Return, and in particular Line 150, which shows the gross income a parent has earned from employment and other sources before taxes and deductions. There are many other factors that the Court may consider, like change of employment, loss of employment, deductions from union or professional dues, and self-employment among many others. You should speak to a lawyer at Ahlstrom Wright if you are unsure about child support payments.

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Is Child Support Mandatory?

A parent (and those who stand in the place of a parent) is always under an obligation to support their children. The Court, or the custodial parent, can take legal action against the non-custodial parent if they do not pay. If an order for child support is made, it is mandatory for the non-custodial to pay. In some special circumstances the non-custodial parent, or custodial parent can make an application to the court to adjust the amount of child support if the payments cause them to suffer what is called “undue hardship”.

Undue Hardship: Factors The Court Will Consider

Undue Hardship is broken into a two-step decision making process. First, there must be special circumstances that warrant adjusting the child support payments. Second, once the special circumstances are established, the standards of living in the two households of the parents are compared. Child support payments will only be adjusted if the standard of living in the parent claiming the undue hardship is lower than the other parent’s.

As with the rest of the Guidelines, an undue hardship argument rests on the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay, or the custodial parent’s ability to adequately support the child[ren].

An undue hardship argument is available to the non-custodial parent if the amounts of the payments are too high and are causing them undue hardship. It is also available to the custodial payment if the payments being made are too low and are causing them undue hardship. Some of the factors a judge will look at while deciding on an undue hardship argument are the number of children the non-custodial parent is supporting, especially if they are in different households, the amount of debt incurred while the parents were together and is now the responsibility of one parent alone, and the distance a parent lives away from the child[ren].

The standard of living of each household is calculated under the Guidelines complex mathematical formula. Basically, the formula takes into account the amount of income in the household, and the amount of people in the household living off that income. That number is then compared to a low income measures amount, and results in a number between 1 and 3. The household with the lower number has the lower standard of living and may be granted an adjustment to child support payments if all of the other factors are met.

Clearly, child support payments and their calculations are complex matters that take into account a variety of different factors. The lawyers at Ahlstrom Wright are experts in determining child support payments, making court applications and utilizing the Guidelines. If you find yourself in a situation where child support is being contemplated, contact the lawyers at Ahsltrom Wright in Sherwood Park for expert advice and guidance.

What Are Child Support Agreements?

Separated parents can sometimes end their relationship amicably and agree to terms on child support and child support payments. A child support agreement can prevent the parties from having to resort to the Courts to determine child support.

It is critically important to be mindful of the Guidelines whenever drafting a child support agreement, and you should consult with the lawyers at Ahlstrom Wright for expert advice on child support agreements to be fully informed on all your options. If the agreement does not accurately reflect the levels of support stipulated in the Guidelines payments can be ordered against the non-custodial parent retroactively. This can cause a substantial financial burden to the non-custodial parent, and is also unfair to the custodial parent. Avoiding litigation by agreement is always a good idea, but it is important that it is done right, otherwise it could be a huge headache for all the parties later on.

My Ex Is Refusing to Pay for Child Support… What Can I Do?

It may be easier to start with what you cannot do. A custodial parent cannot prevent the non-custodial access to their children. Similarly, the non-custodial parent cannot cease paying child support if the custodial parent cuts off their access. Access and support payments are two separate issues and should not be replaced with one another. To put it simply, child support is not an exchange for access.

In Alberta, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) collects court-ordered child support, spousal support and partner support, and can enforce upon this collection in a variety of ways. If you do not have a court order for child support, the first step is to obtain one. After the order is obtained it must be filed in the proper locations, and then the MEP can begin to take collection measures, included deducting the support payments from the non-custodial parents wages.

If you have any questions regarding child support, the guidelines of child support, undue hardship, child support agreements, or court-ordered child support, please contact the family lawyers of Ahlstrom Wright. Ahlstrom Wright would be pleased to offer you a free case review.

CategoryFamily Law