Child Support: "Special and Extraordinary Expenses"

What does "special and extraordinary expenses" mean?

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While child support payments are intended to cover many of the child rearing expenses incurred by the custodial parent, there are some expenses that are not covered by standard child support payments. These expenses are known as Special/Extraordinary Expenses, or Section 7 expenses (from S. 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines). Previously, we discussed Special/Extraordinary Expenses as they relate to sharing summer activity expenses and hockey expenses. In this post, we will discuss these expenses in the context of a recent case which focused on what exactly “extraordinary” expenses are.

Gnanasabapathy v Nagarajah

In this case, the claimed special/extraordinary expenses were day care, tutoring, extra curricular activities, and the cost of medication that exceeded the amount covered by the Applicant Mother’s coverage. In coming to a decision, the court had to determine what actually constitutes an “extraordinary” expense, and whether that expense was reasonable and necessary in relation to the child’s best interests.

When determining whether an expense is “extraordinary” or not, the court must turn to section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines, and past case law. In the court’s review of recent case law, they cited many decisions that dealt with what “extraordinary” actually means.

“Extraordinary” expenses are those expenses that, given the combined income of the parties, would not be incurred for the children as a matter of course. They are deemed to be additional costs of raising a child that are not incorporated into the standard child support table amounts.

For a court to order an "extraordinary expense" to be shared, it also must be "reasonable and necessary".  If it is determined that the expense incurred was disproportionate and not economically justifiable given the party’s income and the support received, the expense may not meet the test for being “reasonable and necessary,” and no contribution will be ordered.

In the Gnanasabapathy case, the court found that the expenses the Applicant Mother incurred for day care, tutoring, and medication were all reasonable, necessary, and were extraordinary expenses. As such, they ordered that the Respondent Father pay his proportionate share of the collective expenses.

Courts can get creative when determining contribution amounts.

Regarding extra-curricular activities, the court looked at the different activities that were available (the mother wanted the child to take swimming lessons and Tae Kwon Do).  They determined that while each on their own would be considered extraordinary expenses, they did not consider them both necessary - that is, the child only needed to attend one activity, so the Father should only contribute to the cost of one. 

In deciding how much the Father should contribute, the court looked at the cost of the activities and what his proportionate share of each would be ($93.79 for swimming, and $135.00 for Tae Kwon Do), and ordered the Respondent Father contribute an average amount of $115.00 to the children’s extra-curricular activities.  It was then left up to the Applicant Mother which activity to enrol the children in.