Section 7 Expenses in Alberta Family Law: A Comprehensive Guide

Family law matters often involve various expenses related to children’s upbringing, education, and extracurricular activities. In Alberta, Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines addresses these additional expenses and provides a framework for sharing the financial responsibility between separated or divorced parents. In this blog post, we’ll explore what Section 7 expenses are, how they are determined, and what parents need to know when dealing with these costs.

Understanding Section 7 Expenses:

  • Definition: Section 7 expenses refer to special or extraordinary costs associated with a child’s upbringing that go beyond basic child support. These may include expenses for education, childcare, medical treatments, and extracurricular activities.
  • Shared Responsibility: Both parents are generally responsible for contributing to Section 7 expenses, with the goal of ensuring that the child’s needs are adequately met.

Types of Section 7 Expenses:

  • Educational Costs: This may include tuition fees, school supplies, tutoring and other related expenses.  However, courts have regularly found that the minor, regular school fees and supply expenses are not extraordinary, and would not be a shareable Section 7 expense.
  • Childcare Expenses: Costs associated with childcare services, such as daycare or after-school care.
  • Medical and Dental Costs: Extraordinary medical or dental expenses that may not be covered by insurance or exceed what is covered by insurance.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Fees for activities such as sports, music lessons, or other enriching experiences.

Determining Section 7 Expenses:

  • Reasonable and Necessary: Section 7 expenses must be reasonable and necessary for the child’s well-being. The court will assess the nature of the expense and whether it enhances the child’s quality of life.  The court will also consider the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the parents and to the family’s spending patterns prior to separation.
  • Proportionate Sharing: The Federal Child Support Guidelines generally require both parents to contribute to Section 7 expenses in proportion to their respective incomes.  For example if one parent earns $40,000 annually and the other earns $60,000 annually, they would be responsible for 40% and 60% respectively.

Obtaining Consent or Court Order:

  • Consent Agreement: Parents can agree on how to share Section 7 expenses outside of court. It’s advisable to document this agreement in a written consent order.
  • Court Order: If parents cannot reach an agreement, a court may issue an order outlining how Section 7 expenses will be apportioned.

Disputes and Resolution:

  • Mediation: Mediation is an effective alternative for resolving disputes over Section 7 expenses. A neutral mediator can assist parents in reaching a mutually agreeable solution.  Often these expenses are not significant enough to justify the cost of attending court.
  • Consulting with a Family Lawyer: If disputes persist, consulting with a family lawyer is essential. A lawyer can provide legal advice, guide you through the court process, and advocate for your interests.

Ongoing Communication:

  • Regular Updates: Given that Section 7 expenses may change over time, maintaining open and transparent communication between parents is crucial. Regular updates and discussions can help prevent conflicts.  It is also common to be required to receive the consent of the other parent before incurring a new Section 7 expense, and failure to do so may result in the expense being borne entirely by the parent that approved it.

Enforcement of Section 7 Obligations:

  • Legal Consequences: Failing to meet Section 7 obligations can have legal consequences. The court may enforce compliance, potentially leading to financial penalties for the non-compliant parent.

Understanding Section 7 expenses is essential for parents navigating family law matters in Alberta. By being aware of the types of expenses covered, the principles guiding their determination, and the available dispute resolution mechanisms, parents can work towards a fair and collaborative approach to providing for their child’s needs. Seeking legal advice when necessary ensures that your rights and responsibilities are properly addressed within the framework of Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

Written by Michael Ross

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