If you are getting a divorce in Alberta and have any minor children, then you can expect child support to be part of your settlement. It is not legal to create a divorce agreement that does not provide for the minor children, which means the judge won’t approve such a settlement even if you try to create one.
Here’s everything you need to know about child support in Alberta.
Who Pays Child Support in Alberta?
Usually the paying parent will be the parent who makes the most money. If the paying parent has the child for more than 40% of the time, this time is taken into account and the child support amount is lowered, as it is assumed the parent is providing for the child whenever the child is with them.
In a straightforward determination where one parent is spending less than 40% of their income with the other, the court uses the paying parent’s income, the number of children, and the paying parent’s province of residence. You can use the federal calculator here.
Either parent may apply for child support as long as they have care and control over a child. In fact, any person who has care and control over a child may apply for support from that child’s parents, so long as that child is living with them.
How is Child Support Determined?
Child support income is calculated using the guideline income: their gross annual income from their tax return. The current year-to-date income can also be used.
Different guidelines are used when the parent is self-employed, has capital gains, has tax-free income, or is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.
When one parent has the majority parenting time the parent’s income is the only income that gets used. The court looks at the amount of income and the number of children and determines that amount.
When parenting time is split or shared, each parent is assigned an amount based on their income. The smaller amount is then subtracted from the larger amount and the parent who makes the most money pays the difference.
These tables only work for the first $150,000 of income. Any income over $150,000 pays additional child support at a rate of 0.0084 times the amount of extra income. So if you make $200,000 per year, you’ll use the child support table for the first $150,000 and then add an additional $420 to the total.
Finally, if there are special or extraordinary expenses like child care expenses, medical or dental insurance for the child, medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance, extraordinary school expenses, extraordinary extracurricular expenses or post-secondary education expenses the court may order one parent or the other to pay for those expenses at its discretion. These expenses may be subsidized or may offer a tax deduction to the paying parent.
What is The Minimum Amount of Child Support That Can be Paid?
There are payments as low as zero if your income is low enough. If you only make $12,000 a year your child support obligation is zero, even if you have up to 4 children.
It really all depends on what your income is vs. the number of children that you have.
Can I Stop Paying Child Support If My Spouse isn’t Complying With a Visitation Order?
No. Child support and visitation are treated as two different issues. You must continue paying your regular child support, but you can ask the courts to intervene when your ex does not comply with the child support order.
When you stop paying child support you open yourself up to enforcement action as well.
What Must be Done To Modify a Child Support Agreement?
If the change is the result of a simple change to income you can request that the Maintenance Enforcement Program review your child support amounts. For example, if you’ve changed jobs and make less money than you used to or you know your paying ex has changed jobs and makes considerably more money than they used to then you can ask the MEP to review your financial data.
Income information that will be exchanged includes tax returns, notices of assessments, and self-employment documentation if necessary.
When Does Child Support Stop?
Child support stops when all children covered by the support order reach the age of majority; that is, the age of 18.
What Happens if You Don’t Pay Child Support in Alberta?
The Maintenance Enforcement Program steps in to enforce the court ordered child support. MEP has a number of remedies at its disposal, including wage garnishment, tax refund seizure, liens on your home, suspension of driver’s licenses and passports, and, as a last resort, jail time.
What is Retroactive Child Support?
At times a parent does not pay the proper amount of child support for several years, and the courts discover that fact later. This can happen when a parent has business or self-employment income that is variable and becomes much higher than the assessed amount.
The judge may choose not to order retroactive child support, depending on the circumstances of the case. In addition, retroactive child support only goes back for a maximum of three years unless the courts determine that the payor was involved in “blameworthy conduct.”
Blameworthy conduct is any conduct where it is determined that the payor put their personal interests above the interest of the child, such as by refusing to provide financial information or by falsifying financial information when it was requested.
Need Help Negotiating a Child Support Arrangement?
Whether you need help ensuring that you are paid enough child support to meet your child’s basic needs or ensuring that your child support obligations are fair, our family law office has the experience you need to bring your case to a good outcome.