When the relationship between parents is broken, the care of their children becomes of paramount concern. Child custody and parenting arrangements must be decided, but so must the practical issue of financial support. Who pays for the child’s needs? And what expenses are covered by child support?

What Expenses Does My Ex-spouse Have To Pay For The Children?

Child support in Alberta is divided into two categories:

  1. Section 3—Basic needs all children have, such as housing, clothing, and food
  2. Section 7—“Extraordinary expenses” necessary for maintaining a child’s lifestyle and wellness

These extraordinary expenses can include the following:

  • Child care—required by the custodial parent due to employment, schooling, illness, or disability
  • Extracurricular activities—Sports, music lessons, and other enrichment activities important for a child’s development and wellbeing
  • Education—tutoring, field trips, private school fees, and other school expenses during the primary and secondary school years; tuition, books, and living expenses while a child attends college or university
  • Healthcare insurance premiums—medical and dental insurance premiums over $100 annually
  • Uninsured healthcare fees—medical and dental, prescription drugs, orthodontics, and prescription lenses

The parent responsible for child support will primarily be responsible for the child’s basic needs. Typically, both parents are expected to contribute to the costs associated with extraordinary expenses.

How Are Child Support Expenses Decided 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 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. Section 7 expenses are calculated separately.

The amounts each parent is required to pay for Section 7 expenses are determined by income. Parents with equal incomes split the expenses equally. However, if one parent’s income is 40% higher than the other parent’s income, for example, they will pay 40% more of the Section 7 expenses.

Child support expenses are decided on a case-by-case basis in Alberta, based on three other key factors:

  1. Necessity
  2. Reasonableness
  3. Family historic spending patterns


For an expense to qualify for child support, you must prove that it is in the best interest of the child. Obviously necessary expenses may include medical care for a child with health problems. A less obvious necessary expense might be extracurricular activities for a gifted child who thrives best in structured, stimulating activities where they’re challenged to develop new skills.


Some expenses may not be necessary, but may still be reasonable. All children can benefit from extracurricular activities, for example, even if they don’t have special needs or exceptional talent.

An expense may be considered unreasonable by the Alberta courts if one parent is strongly opposed to it.

Reasonableness is also determined by the financial means of the parents. If the family cannot afford an extraordinary expense, it may be judged unreasonable.

Family Historic Spending Patterns

The family’s history of spending patterns is another factor in deciding which expenses are included in child support. For example, if the family never paid for private school tuition before, it’s unlikely to be considered in the child’s best interests now.

Who is responsible for child support payments?

In Alberta, both parents are expected to pay child support. However, the custodial parent naturally pays for the day-to-day needs and care of the child, so the other parent is responsible for child support payments.

Child support varies depending on the parenting arrangement. A split custody and shared custody arrangement may require a more creative division of child support, for example.

Child Support Lawyers in Calgary & Strathmore

Extraordinary expenses can be decided between the parents instead of the court. If you can negotiate with your ex-spouse, the process will be quicker than if you take the matter to court. You could also avoid the legal fees associated with a hearing before a judge.

You want what’s best for your child, so it’s important for you to understand what’s included in child support according to the law in Alberta. A child support lawyer can advise you and help you negotiate with your former spouse about Section 7 expenses to avoid leaving the decision up to the court.

Every family’s situation is unique, and various factors affect child support amounts. That’s why consulting a family law lawyer is valuable. The family law experts at Getz Collins and Associates are here to help. Contact us for child support inquiries, child support agreements, or child support negotiation.