What You Thought You Knew About Child Support

By Ashley Dutcher

There are many myths surrounding the ever-important topic of child support. The information below will hopefully assist in debunking some of those myths:

Shared Parenting Arrangement

Many people believe that if children spend equal amounts of time in both parent’s homes that there is not an obligation to pay child support. While this may be true in some circumstances, it is not likely. If a child spends more than 40% of their time at each parent’s home, this is referred to as a shared parenting arrangement. In these types of arrangements, child support can be different than the child support guidelines or different from what many people refer to as the “table” amount of child support. In order to determine the appropriate amount of child support to be paid in a shared parenting arrangement, you must first consider each parent’s respective income for support purposes and determine each parent’s support obligation pursuant to the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

Next, you must determine the “set-off” amount of child support to be paid. This is determined by deducting the lower support payment from the higher support payment. For example, if Parent A’s child support obligation is $700.00 and Parent B’s child support obligation is $300.00, the set-off amount of child support to be paid by Parent A to Parent B is $400.00. Although determining the set-off amount is a good starting point, it is not necessarily the final consideration. The final consideration is looking at the standard of living for the children in both parent’s households. This could allow for some adjustment to the set-off amount of child support to be paid.

Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”)

Many people believe that MEP has the ability to change the amount of child support to be paid or even terminate your child support obligation in some circumstances. Unfortunately, providing MEP with proof that you have lost your job or have received a considerable pay decrease will not allow MEP to change your child support obligation. MEP has jurisdiction to enforce court orders and written agreements. MEP does not have authority to amend or re-evaluate your child support obligation. Child support can only be amended with an amending order or agreement or on the consent of both parties.

Recipient Parent’s Income

It is commonly thought that the recipient parent’s income changes the payor parent’s obligation to pay child support or the amount to be paid. This is not always accurate. If the children spend more than 40% of their time in both parent’s care, then the set-off amount described above may be appropriate and that arrangement considers both parent’s income in determining the appropriate amount of child support to be paid. However, if the children spend less than 40% of their time with each parent, the support recipient or primary caretaker’s income has no affect on the amount of child support to be paid by the payor parent. That said, the support recipient’s income is relevant in determining how Section 7 expenses will be shared and paid for. Normally these expenses are shared proportionate to each parent’s income.

How Child Support is Spent

Many payor parents do not agree with how their child support payments are used and many have the misconception that either themselves, the court or MEP can control how the recipient parent spends child support. This is simply not accurate. Neither the payor parent nor any third party has the ability to control and dictate how child support is used.

This article is for information only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions or would like further information, you should consult a lawyer.

Ashley Dutcher is a lawyer with Burchell MacDougall LLP’s Elmsdale office located at Suite 205 in MacMillan Centre, 550 Highway #2.