Family Law / Divorce Library

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Child Support:
Child support basics

Child support basics

There are two types of child support, section 3 child support, and section 7 child support. These refer to different sections of the Alberta and Federal Child Support Guidelines, the rules setting out how child support is calculated.

Section 3 child support is the base amount that is paid each month. It is based on the payor's income, number of children, and payor's province (to account for differences in provincial tax rates).

Section 7 expenses, also known as "extraordinary expenses" or "special expenses" are expenses for which reimbursement can be sought if they fit within a certain category and meet other conditions. While there are rare exceptions, these expenses are usually shared between parents based on the proportion of their incomes. For example, if one parent earns $100,000, and the other earns $30,000, the first parent will pay 76.9% of section 7 expenses, and the second will pay 23.1% of section 7 expenses (30000/(100000+30000)).

There are several basic child support principles to be aware of:

  • Parenting time and child support are treated as independent issues. If someone isn't paying child support, that itself won't prevent them from seeing the children. If someone is paying child support, that doesn't necessarily mean that they get the Parenting Time that they want.

  • Child support is the right of the child. For that reason, parents generally can't agree to waive or reduce child support (except where otherwise permitted by the law, such as where they have agreed to pay support through an indirect method such as paying the recipient's rent, there is a Shared Parenting arrangement, Adult Children, or in very rare circumstances known as Undue Hardship).

  • The recipient of child support must have discretion about how the funds are spent. That means that child support should be payable by cheque or e-transfer to the recipient, or to the Maintenance Enforcement Program where parents have enrolled. Payments towards debts, utilities, or other expenses will only qualify as child support if the recipient agrees (which should be in writing).

  • Child support is not tax deductible, and doesn't need to be declared (assuming both parents are Canadian residents).

  • A parent generally isn't required to track or account for how they've spent the funds. Child support is expected to be calculated quickly. Even if the cash itself is spent at the city, that children is still benefitting from additional food, clothing, transportation, and shelter in the recipient's household.

  • Child support is payable by parents who have less than 60% of parenting time, and might be payable by Step Parents. If parents each have more than 40% of the parenting time (shared parenting), then it's treated as if they each pay child support to each other, and ultimately it's usually the difference of their two payments that's paid. Other factors are listed in the Section 3 Child Support page.

Child support can be collected by the Maintenance Enforcement Program. They require a court order or a specific form of agreement to collect. They have more powers than the court, for example, they can suspend driver's licenses.

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Child support basics


Content by Ken Proudman of BARR LLP (Edmonton)

Last updated on November 12, 2022

Last complete review of all content on this page on November 11, 2022

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