What are the Child Support Guidelines and how are they applied?
Up until 1997 the level of support for children upon the breakdown of a relationship was inconsistent and unpredictable as there were no guidelines as to what that level should be. Not only were children disadvantaged by inadequate levels of support, but the courts were clogged with parents arguing over quantum.
In 1997 the federal government decided to step in by creating a set of tables setting out standard amounts of child support payable, known today as the Child Support Guidelines. All provinces have effectively adopted their own guidelines to this effect.
Currently, child support is calculated based on the income of the “non-primary” parent (the parent with the child(ren) less than 40% of the time – the “Payor”) and the number of children being provided for. The tables provide a monthly amount payable in nearly all cases.
Cases where both parents have the children for at least 40% of the year are more complicated. One approach is to calculate what each parent would owe the other under the table amount and then do a “set-off” where the higher earning parent pays table amount less whatever the other parent would owe them. (eg. if Parent A would owe $1,000 and Parent B would owe $500, Parent A would pay Parent B $500). In such situations this is but one approach.
In Ontario as in all Canadian jurisdictions child support is the right of the child, not the right of the parent receiving it. Courts are thus extremely reluctant to allow parents to make alternative arrangements which ignore the Guidelines, unless they are completely satisfied that the child’s/children’s interests are protected.