As their children head back to school this fall, parents may wonder about the costs of their kiddos’ education and extracurricular activities. Such expenses, known in family law as special and extraordinary expenses, go beyond the normal expenses incurred when raising a child.
Child support includes special expenses. The courts determine who should pay, and how much, based on what’s reasonable and necessary.
What is child support?
Child support payments provide financial support for the benefit of the child or children. Parents must pay a basic child support amount to cover children’s basic living expenses. The amount of child support payments is determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines under the Divorce Act and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines under the Family Law Act.
What are special expenses?
Included as part of child support, special expenses are apart from basic living expenses and are typically shared between parents, proportional to their income. Also sometimes called ”extraordinary expenses” or “section 7 expenses,” special expenses may include
- child care
- health care
- insurance premiums
- extracurricular activities
- post-secondary education
If parents end up in court because they cannot agree on the expenses, the judge will consider whether the expense is
- reasonable, given the parents’ financial situation
- in the best interests of the child and therefore necessary
How do the courts determine whether an expense is reasonable?
The courts typically weigh the cost against the parents’ incomes.
- For parents with lower incomes, fewer expenses will be considered reasonable. For example, because the added cost of childcare is often necessary to allow a parent to work, it is nearly always deemed reasonable.
- For parents with middle or higher incomes, the cost to enroll a child in an expensive sport (e.g., soccer, hockey) may be deemed reasonable.
- Tuition at a private school may be reasonable for parents with high incomes.
How do the courts determine whether an expense is necessary?
Although unreasonable, an expense may be necessary. Parents need to incur the cost even if it imposes a degree of financial hardship. Courts weigh necessity in relation to the child’s best interests. Necessary expenses may include
- medical costs
- counselling services
- costs associated with nurturing and encouraging a child’s unique gift or talent
Family law can be complicated. If you feel you’re being asked to pay for expenses you believe are unreasonable, or if you feel your child deserves opportunities not provided, Lift Legal’s experienced team of family lawyers can help work toward a solution. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.
The information on this blog and website is provided by Lift Legal for educational purposes only. It is intended to give readers a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. Information contained in these pages should not be used in place of competent legal advice from a licensed, practising lawyer in Alberta. Furthermore, by using this blog and website, you understand that no lawyer-client relationship exists between you and Lift Legal.