Vancouver Child Support Lawyers

Parents have a duty to support their children, regardless of whether the parents were ever in a relationship. Child support balances the parents’ obligations to provide for their children financially and is usually paid by the parent with less parenting time. After a separation or divorce, child support may be one of the most pressing issues to be resolved.

Meridian Law Group has decades of experience in child support matters and provides trusted advice on parental obligations and entitlements. The firm’s family law team assists clients with applications for retroactive support and variation orders and takes aggressive action to enforce orders against non-compliant parents.

Child Support in British Columbia

While child support is paid from one parent to another, the legal right to support belongs solely to the child.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines govern child support calculations. Generally, the recipient parent is the parent who has the child in their care more often. This is because they are presumed to be fulfilling their support obligations by providing the majority of the child’s necessities such as shelter, food, and clothing.

The amount of child support may be set out in an agreement between the parents (such as a separation agreement) or a court order.

Calculating Child Support

The Federal Child Support Guidelines include calculation tables for determining the amount of child support payable, based on the payor spouse’s income and the number of children they must support. Each province and territory has its own table.

While the Federal Child Support Guidelines govern most child support calculations, some circumstances justify a deviation from the table amount, including:

  • The child spends an approximately equal amount of time with each parent;
  • The child is over the age of 19 (the age of majority in British Columbia) and requires ongoing financial support (e.g. for educational or medical purposes);
  • The payor parent is a step-parent;
  • The payor parent’s circumstances are such that they would suffer undue hardship if they had to pay the table amount; or
  • One parent earns over $150,000. When either parent’s income is over this threshold, the court considers the means and needs of each parent and the child to determine the appropriate amount of child support.

Special or Extraordinary Expenses

Special or extraordinary expenses are child-related costs over and above the regular table amounts. As special expenses are governed by section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, they are sometimes referred to as “section 7 expenses”. In most cases, parents will be expected to each contribute to the special expenses in an amount proportionate to their respective income.

Unlike the table calculations, special expenses do not follow a set formula and instead cover variable costs associated with the child’s particular needs, activities, or lifestyle. Examples of special expenses include:

  • Childcare or daycare costs;
  • Health insurance premiums;
  • Uninsured medical expenses (e.g. eyeglasses, counselling/therapy, orthodontics);
  • Educational costs (e.g. private school fees, supplies, tutoring);
  • Post-secondary education costs, including tuition, textbooks, or accommodations; and
  • Extracurricular activities (e.g. equipment or classes for sports, music, or art).

Financial Disclosure Obligations

Parents have an ongoing duty to exchange complete, up-to-date financial disclosure. This ensures that their child support arrangements remain fair and equitable. Courts may invalidate a child support order or agreement if it finds that a spouse failed to provide accurate financial disclosure or deliberately misrepresented their income.

When a parent has lied about their income or is deliberately unemployed or underemployed in an attempt to avoid their support obligations, the court may decide to “impute” their income at a higher level. Imputation is a process under the Federal Child Support Guidelines where a judge reviews all the evidence and financial information to decide what income the parent should be considered to have for the purposes of child support calculations.

Variation of Child Support

A child’s needs, as well as their parents’ financial means, can be expected to change over time. These changes often warrant a variation of the amount of child support set out in a court order or agreement. Where parents have reached an agreement about child support in a separation agreement, the agreement may address the circumstances that trigger the need for a variation.

Parents may consent to a variation through negotiation or mediation, although they cannot agree to less than the child is entitled to under the Federal Child Support Guidelines. When parents disagree about varying the amount of child support, they will need to bring a court application and have a judge decide.

Circumstances Requiring a Variation

Examples of circumstances requiring a variation of a child support order or agreement include:

  • A change to a parent’s employment status (e.g. they are laid off, promoted, or retired);
  • The child starts or ceases an extracurricular activity;
  • The child turns 19 and no longer requires support or requires new support (e.g. college or university costs);
  • The child has a medical condition that worsens or improves; or
  • The parties’ parenting arrangements change (i.e. the child now spends a different amount of time with each parent than before).

Retroactive Child Support

When a recipient parent learns that the payor parent should have been paying more child support, the court may make an order for retroactive child support. A retroactive support order requires the payor parent to pay the difference between the amount they were legally required to pay and the amount they actually paid. A common situation giving rise to retroactive child support is where a parent has refused to pay support or has deliberately underpaid by misrepresenting their income.

Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Experienced Child Support Advice

Meridian Law Group provides trustworthy advice and representation in child support matters in a variety of legal forums, including mediation, arbitration, and litigation. The firm’s family and divorce lawyers develop creative solutions to help clients resolve disputes as efficiently and amicably as possible. When matters proceed to court, Meridian Law Group delivers results for clients through skilled, authoritative advocacy.

For over 30 years, the lawyers of Meridian Law Group have navigated clients through issues arising from a separation or divorce. Conveniently located in downtown Vancouver, the firm services clients throughout British Columbia, including West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. Meridian Law Group also assists clients across Canada and internationally. To speak with an experienced family lawyer or arrange a confidential consultation, please call (604) 687-2277 or reach out online.