Child Support and Parenting Schedules

Can your parenting schedule impact how much child support is paid?

Child support is comprised of two parts:

  1. The basic “table” or “Guideline” amount to cover the ordinary costs of raising a child. This covers costs such as clothing, food, and school supplies; and
  2. An amount that is specific to “special and extraordinary expenses”. This post will focus only on the basic amount. You can learn more about special and extraordinary expenses here.

Determining the Guideline Amount

In simple cases, child support can be calculated by determining the Guideline amount. In complex matters, the Guideline amount can be used as a starting point.

How much child support is payable depends on a number of factors, including:

  1. Where you live (there are tables for each province and territory);
  2. How many children you have to support;
  3. Your gross annual income; and
  4. Your parenting arrangement.

Calculating Support in Different Parenting Arrangements

Sole Custody

You have a sole custody arrangement if your child spends at least 60 percent of their time with you over the course of a year. In this situation, your co-parent will pay the full Guideline amount.  You can find out Guideline amounts with this online calculator

Shared Custody

You have a shared custody arrangement if your child spends equal time (no less than 40 percent of their time) with both parents over the course of the year. In this case, child support is often determined by a “set-off” amount. To determine the set-off amount, you will need to locate the amount of child support payable based on both parents’ gross annual incomes. Subtract the smaller Guideline amount from the larger Guideline amount. The resulting payment is called the “set-off”, and the parent with the higher gross annual income will have to pay this amount to the other parent.

Section 9 of the Guidelines gives judges discretion to order something other than the Table amount in shared custody cases.  It is common for judges to use a “set-off” but they are not required to do so.  They may order more or less than the “set-off” amount depending on the circumstances of your case.

Split Custody

You have a split custody arrangement if you have two or more children and each parent has sole custody of at least one of them. For example, you may have two children and one lives primarily with you while the other child lives primarily with the other parent.  In this case, each parent has to pay support according to the Guidelines for any children living with the other parent.  The parent who has to pay the higher amount must pay the difference to the other parent.

Varying child support

The overarching rule for seeking a change in child support is the existence of a ‘material change in circumstance’.  Generally, this will require a change in parental income, custody or your child's level of dependency.  For instance, if your child is heading off to university, you may wish to request a change in support to address the extraordinary expense of tuition or because the child will be living in residence or in their own apartment. You can learn more about varying child support here.