Every child in Canada has the legal right to child support from both parents because it’s in the child’s best interest. In this post, we’ll look at the basic child support guidelines in Alberta, including:

  • What is child support?
  • What does child support cover?
  • Who is responsible for child support payments?
  • How is child support calculated in Alberta?
  • How do we get a child support agreement?

What Is Child Support?

Child support is the legal right of every child in Canada because it’s in the child’s best interest. Caring for a child’s needs requires money, so child support is financial support from the parents. It is the duty of both parents, even if the parents separate or divorce, and even if a parent has never lived with the child.

Child support is not spousal support. It is for the child’s benefit, not the parent’s benefit. Regardless of the parents’ relationship or the parenting arrangement, a child always has the right to receive child support.

What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support covers the basic living expenses of the child, as well as necessary special expenses that are reasonable and in the child’s best interest. Expenses covered by child support include:

  • Food, clothing, and housing
  • Transportation
  • Health care, including dental
  • Child care
  • Education, including post-secondary
  • Extracurricular activities

Child support always covers basic living expenses, such as food, clothing, and housing. Special expenses included in child support are determined by their necessity for the child’s best interests and their reasonableness, considering the family’s financial situation.

Who Is Responsible For Child Support Payments?

Both parents have a duty to provide child support. However, in most cases, if a child lives with one parent, the other parent pays child support because the custodial parent already provides child support by caring for the child’s day-to-day needs and expenses.

The responsibility for child support payments varies depending on the parenting arrangement. Split custody and shared custody arrangements, for example, may require a more creative division of child support.

How Is Child Support Calculated In Alberta?

For any Canadian parent who is divorcing or changing a child support order, child support is calculated using the Federal Child Support Guidelines. For all other Alberta parents, child support is calculated using the Alberta Child Support Guidelines.

The Alberta Child Support Guidelines are the same as the Federal Child Support Guidelines, but with four exceptions:

  1. Child support continues beyond age 18 until age 22, as long as the child is attending a post-secondary institution full time or has a disability or illness.
  2. A step parent may be responsible for child support if they have treated the child as their own.
  3. Anyone who has the child in their care may apply for child support.
  4. Special expenses can be estimated.

The base child support amount is established in the Federal Child Support Guidelines and depends on three key factors:

  1. The pre-tax annual income of the paying parent
  2. The number of children involved
  3. The province in which the paying parent lives

To calculate the basic child support amount, refer to the Child Support Table Look-Up. This calculation is determined by the average amount that parents at each income level spend on their children when the parents are still together.

Special expenses are calculated separately.

Child support amounts can differ from the Guidelines in some situations, such as undue hardship or income exceeding $150,000 per year. In exceptional circumstances like these, consult with a lawyer to help determine appropriate child support amounts.

How Is Income Calculated To Determine Child Support?

The paying parent’s gross annual income (minus any paid union dues) is a factor in calculating child support. To find this amount, refer to line 150 of their income tax return, or a Notice of Assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), or the total sum of the pre-tax amount of their pay stubs for a full year of work.

Sometimes a paying parent’s income makes it difficult to calculate a consistent child support amount. For example, if their income varies widely or if they’re self-employed, under-employed, or intentionally unemployed. In complicated income situations, consult with a lawyer to help determine child support amounts.

How Is Child Support Calculated When The Child Lives Primarily With One Parent?

When the child lives primarily with one parent, that parent is the recipient of the child support. The base child support amount is calculated using the federal Child Support Table Look-Up. Special expenses are calculated separately.

How Is Child Support Calculated When Custody Is Shared?

When custody is shared, use the Child Support Table Look-Up to calculate the amount for each parent. The higher-income parent pays the difference between the two amounts. Special expenses are calculated separately.

How Is Child Support Calculated When Custody Is Split?

When custody is split, use the Child Support Table Look-Up to calculate the amount for each parent. The parent with the highest amount must pay the difference between the two amounts. Special expenses are calculated separately.

How Do We Get A Child Support Agreement?

You don’t have to go to court to get a child support agreement. Alberta courts prefer parents to work out an agreement on their own because parents know the needs of their child best, and going to court costs time and money. It can also be stressful.

A child support agreement doesn’t have to be in writing, but it is recommended. A written agreement can avoid future disputes, even if it’s informal. This agreement can be changed, as needed, if it’s in the best interests of the child or if the parents’ circumstances change.

You can make an agreement on your own, or get a lawyer’s help. If you can’t agree, a lawyer might facilitate a resolution, or you could try a mediator or Dispute Resolution Officer in Calgary.

A child support agreement should include:

  • Names and birthdates of the children involved
  • The primary residence of the children
  • Child support payment amounts, including the start date
  • Payment method (e.g. cash, cheque, or e-transfer to the recipient)
  • Additional arrangements for special expenses
  • Signatures of both parents and witnesses

If you create a child support agreement yourselves, have it reviewed by a lawyer.

Child Support Lawyers in Calgary & Strathmore

Every family’s situation is unique, and various factors affect child support amounts. That’s why consulting a family law attorney can be helpful. The family law lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates are here to help. Contact us for child support inquiries, help in creating a child support agreement, or mediation in any area of family law.