Understanding Child Support Obligations for Separating Parents

Kanata CA personal injury, family, and real estate law firm

BY: RACHEL LECK

Parents going through a relationship breakdown have the additional great concern about what happens with the kids. The “best interests” of the child are paramount and must be the primary concern when sorting out the details of a separation.

Every parent has a child support obligation based on their income, the number of children, and the residency of the child or children after separation. The basic amount of child support is governed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines and is paid on a monthly basis.

Determining income for child support purposes is not always straightforward. The starting point is the income disclosed in the annual tax return, but facts such as whether a parent is self-employed, earns commissions or bonuses, is receiving investment income, dividend income or capital gains, and circumstances such as whether a parent is deliberately underemployed, must be considered in determining income. An experienced family law lawyer can provide invaluable advice when it comes to the determination of income for establishing the correct guideline amount of child support.

In addition to the basic child support amount, parents also have obligations to contribute toward “special and extraordinary expenses” such as extracurricular activities, medical and dental expenses, school fees, and the cost of post-secondary education. Generally, these expenses are shared in proportion to each parent’s income, however other arrangements are possible. A family lawyer can assist in identifying eligible expenses and negotiating a fair and reasonable agreement with respect to sharing these expenses.

The best interests of the children involved in a relationship breakdown must be the main focus of parents who are negotiating the terms of a separation. The financial implications of child support may be significant, so having the advice of an experienced family law lawyer can be critical in understanding the financial obligations for each parent.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This publication is the 31st installment of our firm’s Legal Matters series, which answers a reader’s question every week.  If you have a general legal question that you would like to have addressed please send it via email to legalmatters@compellingcounsel.com.