Many people are familiar with child support. You can calculate it on the Government of Canada website and you simply pay the number that it gives you. However, what the Government of Canada website does not give you is a calculation to be used for the payment of Section 7 expenses. Many separated couples also simply create their own agreement for how to divide Section 7 expenses. These expenses are often split equally between them despite their respective incomes.
Section 7 expenses refers to the specific expenses related to raising children in Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These expenses include childcare, health and dental, school related expenses, post-secondary expenses and extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.
While it initially seems straightforward, there can be significant disputes about which expenses actually fall under Section 7. For instance: whether it is fair that the expenses are shared, what share should each party contribute and sometimes, what share should the child be expected to contribute.
For some families, the amount of the expense is a significant factor on whether it is reasonable and should be split proportionally. That is to say, if one parent insists on a very expensive activity that the other will struggle to afford, it may not be appropriate to divide that expense proportionately or at all.
When children begin to attend post-secondary education, further issues arise. Paradoxically, if parents are not separated, they have no obligation to pay for their children’s post-secondary education. However, once parents are separated, the Court has no issue requiring the parents to contribute to their children’s tuition. The children may also begin to see an obligation to support themselves. This may be through scholarships and bursaries, student loans or working while attending post-secondary.
The Courts have inconsistently dealt with Section 7 expenses. For example, in some situations, elementary school fees and hot lunch would be an eligible Section 7 expense, while in others, they would not. In the same vein, private school fees would sometimes be proportionately divided. Other times, the parent that wants to enroll the children in that school would bear that financial burden. There are too many factors to be considered to make any hard rule on the eligibility and division of Section 7 expenses.
There is also always the issue of properly calculating each party’s guideline incomes . If you have questions about your specific situation, we always recommended you seek legal advice.
Written by Michael Ross.