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Considerations for child and spousal support

There are many myths and misconceptions about the ways in which entitlements and calculations are made on both child and spousal support. Understanding the basics is important to accurately assess your legal rights and obligation

How is base monthly child support determined?

The first consideration is determining your role in the parenting regime. Is it shared parenting or is one party the primary parent? Under the Federal Child Support Guidelines, a primary parent is one that has at least 60% of the parenting time caring for the child(ren).
If the split does not exceed 60% it is a shared parenting regime. In such circumstances, the determination of base monthly child support is done on an offset basis. This means that both parties’ incomes are calculated to a “table amount” and the higher income earner is obligated to pay the difference.
If one parent is primary, the non-primary parent is obligated to pay the full value of their table amount with no offset or consideration of the primary parent’s income.

How is income determined for calculating child support?

In most cases, “Guideline Income” is based on your gross total income from line 150 of your most recent tax return. However, if you are not an employee, often a more complex assessment is required of business financial statements, revenue and expenses to determine an appropriate guideline income.

How do I calculate my table amount owing?

You can visit the federal child support calculator at and input your province of residence, guideline income and # of children to obtain your table amount.

Is that the end of the child support story?

Not quite. In addition to base monthly child support, there is another legal obligation called “Section 7 extraordinary expenses”. These are expenses beyond the necessities of food, shelter and clothing, which are a shared expense, both under primary and shared parenting. It is usually shared based on a proportionate percentage of each parent’s guideline income. For example, if the parties earn $100k and $50k respectively, the higher income earner would pay 67% and the lower income 33%.
Those expenses include:
a. child care expenses;
b. medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
c. uninsured health-related expenses
d. primary or secondary school education expenses
e. expenses for post-secondary education; and
f. extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.

Do I have a legal entitlement to Spousal Support?

Not unlike many issues in the law – the answer is “maybe.”. Although child support is a strict legal obligation, spousal support is a more nuanced claim, with a number of factors and subjective determinations at play. As such, there is no strict legal entitlement, even when one spouse earns significantly more than the other. Entitlement is split into two entitlements, or grounds for claiming spousal support, non-compensatory and compensatory.

What is a non-compensatory claim?

This claim is related to the payors ability to pay and the recipient’s needs. Essentially, it is based on the principle that the lower income party may need support gaining financial independence because of the dissolution of the marriage or common-law relationship. However, a disparity in income is not the whole story. For example, a stronger non-compensatory claim could be made by a person struggling on a $30k income and their ex-spouse earning $80k, versus one spouse earning $150K and the other $300k. In scenario one the financial need is greater, even though the income disparity is much less.

What is a compensatory claim?

In simple terms, this claim is based on one spouse being placed at an economic disadvantage and lower earning power based on their role in the marriage or relationship. Common examples are one spouse staying at home in a caretaker role for the children or moving locations to support the other spouse’s career to the detriment of their own.

I think I have a claim, but how to I determine its value?

Similar to child support, inputs are calculated through the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) calculator. However, in contrast, this calculator provides a range of monthly dollar value support amounts from a low to high end of a range.
The primary objective factors that are inputted into the calculator include:

  • Length of cohabitation;
  • Age of each spouse;
  • Total income for each spouse; and
  • Child support paid or received.

How do I know if my claim is more likely to be at the low or high end of the range?

Most typically, the Courts award the mid-range amount if an entitlement is found. However, it may move to the high end of the range if you are able to make both a non-compensatory claim and a compensatory one, or in cases where one claim is particularly strong.
How long can I claim spousal support for? This is a very subjective question, based on all of the factors we have discussed, and most notably the ages of the parties. However, typically the courts will most often award half the duration of the length of the relationship, cohabitation date to separation date.

Please be advised that this article was prepared by Alan Dockrill, Family Law Lawyer with Main Street Law LLP in Spruce Grove in May of 2023, is intended as a general overview and general information on a legal subject as the law exists at the time of writing and is not intended to be legal advice. Often the specific facts of your legal matter may change or impact the applicability of this information. For legal advice related specifically to the facts of your concern, please consult with any of the Family Law Lawyers at Main Street Law LLP.

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