What is child support?

When parents separate, whether or not they are married, in a civil union, or have no formal ties at all, both of them must financially support their children.

No matter whether the parents are married and so are in divorce proceedings (under our federal Divorce Act), or are merely separating (under our Civil Code of Quebec), or are dissolving their civil union (also under our Civil Code of Quebec), or finally, are not in any formal union, and so are just taking plain old custody and child support proceedings (yet again under our Civil Code of Quebec), the rules are the same!

Child support is determined by applying the Quebec Child Support Guidelines. Each parent has to complete an Annex I Child Support Determination Form (see attachment below).

(Forms for preceding years can be found in our Forms section, if you need to calculate what child support should have been prior to 2009.)

The child support is calculated as a function of both parents’ incomes, considered together, after a basic living expense deduction of $ 10,100 granted to each parent. Children’s extraordinary expenses must also be included in the form. Such expenses include: medical, dental, orthodontic expenses; private school tuition, books and uniforms; tutoring; day care; CEGEP and university tuition; sporting activities and equipment (beyond day-to-day minor costs which are considered to be included in child support).

Also, where the “non-custodial” parent has extended access (between 20% and 40% of the calendar year), there is a small reduction in support payable that must be calculated, because these “non-custodial” parents bear a larger share of day-to-day costs of raising their children.

In the event of complete shared custody (more than 40% of the calendar year to one parent, and less than 60% of the calendar year to the other parent), the child support amount payable is cut drastically, but then again, this is because the Quebec government expects that parents who share custody will share ALL their children’s out of pocket expenses rateably between them, in proportion to their respective incomes.

Frankly, it strikes me that this latter scenario is a great way to ruin shared custody agreements! I do not know many married couples who are getting along well who could cope with the strain of sharing EVERY expense they incur for their children. So, when couples split up, even if they have the maturity, wisdom and strength to do actual hands-on child-rearing in a shared custody arrangement, I think it puts a particular stress on the two parents to require all this extra togetherness to share their children’s expenses!

It seems more practical for separated parents to agree on a model of division of expenses before they are incurred, so that each parent has the freedom to do the purchasing, based on a set annual budget (for example, one parent may be responsible for purchasing all clothing, which is kept in both homes, and the other may handle schooling or sports expenses). Or, simpler yet, the parent who generally undertook the children’s expenses during the marriage (often the mother, I will admit) continues to do so after separation, and the father pays a fixed weekly allowance to the mother to cover such expenses.

At least in these two latter scenarios, parents can meet once or twice a year to review how the budget was spent, instead of having to communicate about “money matters” every few days!