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What do I need to know about child support?

Mallory Arnott
Mallory Arnott, Family Lawyer

One of the first things that is usually considered after separation is the issue of child support, or child maintenance. Child support or maintenance is an issue that must be dealt with whether or not the parents were married.

After separation, often times one parent will be the primary parent, and has the child(ren) in their care more than 60% of the time. If this is the case, the other parent will pay child support to the primary parent.

Calculating child support when there is one primary parent has been made relatively straight forward with the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines contain Federal Child Support Tables, which determine the amount of child support payable based on the gross (before tax) annual income of the paying parent, the province where the paying parent lives, and the number of children the parent is paying support for. If you have children with more than one partner, the payment is based on the number of children with each partner. For example, if you have four children, but two are from one relationship and two are from another, then you will pay the “two child” Table amount to both custodial parents.

Child support orders are typically adjusted annually to account for increases and decreases in the paying parent’s annual income. Child support is not tax deductible for the paying parent, and not taxable income for the recipient parent. If the paying parent refuses to disclose their income information, the court can draw inferences and impute income to the paying parent. This means the Court will base child support based on an income the Court determines the paying parent is, or could be, making. Income can also be imputed on a parent who is intentionally unemployed or underemployed. Child support is usually payable until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 19 years old is Nova Scotia. However, in certain circumstances child support can continue past the age of 19, such as the adult child is enrolled in post-secondary education, or has a disability or illness that prevents them from becoming self-sufficient. Calculating the appropriate amount of child support for adult children can be more complicated.

With a shared parenting arrangement, meaning that each parent has the child for at least 40% of the time, the appropriate amount of child support can depend on a number of factors, including the income of both parents and what is in the best interests of the
child(ren). Contrary to popular belief, a shared parenting arrangement does not automatically result in no child support. Depending on the incomes of the parents, and other family circumstances, the amount of child support may still be required in the full Table amount. It may also be reduced, a set off amount can be used, or it may be eliminated completely.

Parents are free to make agreements for child support outside of court, but if the matter is brought to court, a judge is free to reject these arrangements presented by the parents if they feel it is not reasonable and not in the best interests of the child(ren). Child support is the right of the child, and cannot be contracted out of, or reduced, by the parents without a reasonable explanation demonstrating that it is in the best interests of the child. In the majority of situations, the Court will order child support be paid in accordance with the Guidelines.

Larger or special expenses, such as childcare costs and medical costs, are typically in addition to child support. These expenses are often shared in proportion to the parents’ incomes.

If you are recently separated, are unsure of the appropriate child support amounts, or have any other questions, our Family Law department will be happy to assist you in resolving your family law matters.