Canada's Federal Child Support Guideline: FAQs
Canada's federal child support guideline is a formula that helps courts determine how much money parents should provide for their child's needs.
The guideline can apply in any province or territory, though some provinces use their own guideline in certain situations.
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Does the federal guideline apply in my case?
Every province and territory outside of Québec uses the federal guideline (i.e., formula) to calculate support amounts.
Québec's guideline is unique in that both parents' incomes factor in, even if they don't have shared parenting time. However, in a divorce case where one parent lives outside the province (but within Canada), Québec uses the federal guideline.
What factors does the federal guideline consider?
The basic factors in the child support amount are:
- Number of minor or dependent children you have together
- Parenting time
- Parents' incomes
- Province or territory
- Special or extraordinary expenses (if any)
The court may consider additional factors on a case-by-case basis.
Notice that your location affects the total, even though this is a countrywide formula. That's because each province and territory uses its own child support table.
How do I calculate support under the federal guideline?
There are a few ways to estimate how much support you'll pay or receive monthly under the federal guideline.
Use Custody X Change's calculators for these provinces:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland & Labrador
- Nova Scotia
Use the Government of Canada's child support lookup tool. (Keep in mind that the tool assumes one parent has more than 60 percent of parenting time.)
Or calculate manually using the Government of Canada's guide to calculating support if you expect to have extraordinary expenses or undue hardship.
Keep in mind, the court may deviate from the guideline in certain cases. For example, if the paying parent's annual income is $150,000 or more, the court decides how to determine the support amount.
Can my support amount be different than the guideline amount?
Yes. The support amount could be less if parents agree on a lesser amount and the court approves. This could also happen if the court adjusts support because it is too much for the parent to pay.
Support could be more than the guideline if the court determines it is not enough to cover the child's needs.
Who pays support under the federal guideline?
Generally, the parent who spends less time with the child pays support monthly.
If each parent spends at least 40 percent of the year with the child (called shared parenting time), the parent with the higher income pays.
In some locations, you'll need to establish the child's parentage (most commonly paternity) before requesting child support. Keep in mind that each province and territory has different standards for naming someone a legal parent.
Stepparents and nonparents who have regular visits with the child could also be responsible for paying support.
The person who pays support is called the obligor.
Can parents agree that no one should pay support?
No. Child support is the right of the child. You cannot opt out of it.
Can the support amount change?
Yes, if your circumstances change. For example, if:
- Either parent's income changes.
- Your child turns 19.
- There's a change in special expenses.
You can agree to modify the support amount, then get court approval. Or ask the court to decide on a modification when you can't agree. The exact process varies by province or territory.
What should I do if the obligor is not paying support?
If the obligor misses payments or is late more than once, contact the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program in your province or territory. The FMEP may charge late fees or impose other sanctions.
You cannot deny the obligor their parenting time, even if they miss support payments. Nor can the obligor stop paying if you don't allow them to see the kids.
When will support payments stop?
The obligation to pay support continues until the child turns 19. You may have to pay support beyond that time if the child is still dependent on you (e.g., if the child is disabled or attending university).
Children over 19 who are still dependent are expected to support themselves in some capacity. This self-support can come from student loans, scholarships, employment, the Persons with Disabilities Pension and more. The court may choose to adjust the support based on these amounts.
Often, once a child completes their post-secondary studies, the court may allow support payments to end if the adult child is considered self-sufficient.
How can I keeping track of payments and expenses?
Whether you're paying or receiving child support, the Custody X Change app can help you keep track of support payments and child-related expenses.
Log details of every payment or expense into your parenting expense tracker to ensure that you're on time and paid up.
When you're owed money for expenses, share an expense report with the other parent — either digitally or on paper. This is just one way Custody X Change makes co-parenting simpler.