How much child support will I have to pay?

How is child support calculated in Alberta?

When it comes to determining child support, judges frequently turn to set provincial and federal guidelines to determine payment amounts. But individual circumstance, such as undue financial hardship facing one or both parents, offers the courts leeway in calculating how much a parent will be required to pay to provide a fair standard of care for their children. We know, divorcing parents spend a lot of time worrying — How much child support will I have to pay?

The federal government updated its child support payment guidelines set out under the Divorce Act in late 2017, in part because the previous guidelines established in 2010 did not reflect more recent changes to federal income tax rules. The tables list a base monthly child support based on guideline incomes and the number of children needing support.

Justice Canada recommends that parents consult with a family law specialist, such as the lawyers at Calgary-based RCMV Family Law, for advice on how the highly complex guidelines apply to their circumstances. A lawyer specializing in custody arrangements can also explain legal rights and obligations, ensure the best interests of the children, and assist in drafting the right documents should a court visit be required to resolve any disputes.

As separation, divorce and custody arrangements usually involve life-altering decisions and high emotions, a family lawyer can help parents navigate the many regulations, requirements, and options available to ensure the best interests of their children.

For example, if children live an equal amount of time with each parent, child support might be calculated equally. If one parent earns more, they are usually required to pay a higher amount. If there are special expenses, such as a child with disabilities, then that is factored in as well.

The rules around child support become more complicated if one or both parents reside outside Alberta, and even more so if one parent (or both) does not live in Canada. There are also variations depending on if parenting is done on a shared or split custody basis. Advice from a skilled Alberta family lawyer can ensure child support is distributed fairly and in the best interests of the children.

Issues to resolve may include time frames for when child support will begin and end, such as when a child reaches a certain age or obtains a pre-determined level of education. If the two spouses cannot agree, a family lawyer or mediator may be required, and court involvement may be necessary.

Child support orders often require parents to regularly provide updated information on their income; failure to keep the other parent informed of changes may lead to court-ordered retroactive payments or other penalties. Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program is in place to enforce a support order or other form of binding agreement, as well as to collect the court-ordered child, partner or spousal support. The program also has a section on its website asking for public assistance in locating parents who have defaulted on court-ordered payments.

Some divorcing or separating parents do not realize that child support is mandatory, even if one parent chooses to have no contact with their children. However, a parent is not allowed by law to refuse the other parent from contacting a child because they are not paying child support. Nor can a parent stop paying support because the other parent is refusing them access to their child.

Provincially, Alberta Justice has established the Alberta Child Support Recalculation Program  (also known as RP), which recalculates court-ordered child support annually based on current income tax information. The program, which gives registered parents online access to review their files and seek changes, aims to help parents alter support orders without the time and expense of going to court every time a change is needed.

The RP program is not automatic; eligible parents must already have a valid court order or some form of binding agreement in place, usually drawn up with the help of a lawyer. RP will only recalculate orders if the tables were used by the courts to establish support; the federal government posts the Child Support Online Lookup, broken down by province and number of children, to give parents access to the set amount of child support required for specific guideline incomes.

The team at RCMV LLP can help to calculate the specific child support required for your particular situation. Contact us today to learn more.

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About Author

Nancy Lentz

Nancy received a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a political science major from the University of Alberta in 2006 along with a Certificate in Globalization and Governance.