When two people who are divorced or separated have children, there may be a requirement for one parent to pay child support to the other parent. Child support is meant to contribute to the day-to-day costs of raising children. But not every expense related to children is included in child support. For example, school tuition, sports fees, and other expenses may constitute what are known as special, or section 7 expenses. It’s not uncommon for parents to have to contribute to those expenses, and some parents will have agreements in place to determine how special expenses will be handled. In a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the court was asked to determine whether a father’s request for section 7 expenses that fell outside of the parents’ agreement was valid.
Order provides details on how section 7 expenses are to be treated
The parents have two children, born in 2002 and 2005. In July 2019 the parents signed an order that detailed parenting time, child support, and section 7 expenses. They share parenting time, and the father pays child support to the mother based on their respective incomes.
The order as it relates to section 7 expenses states that the parties will pay a pro-rated cost to the other and that each child shall be limited to one “rep” category of sport (sports played at a high level, usually with significant costs). It also states that each parent must consult with the other when pursuing new activities and that the other parents cannot unreasonably object.
Father submits a request for reimbursement under section 7
The father claimed close to $10,000 in section 7 expenses from the mother, with the breakdown as follows:
$4,890.56 – sports-related
$2,953.54 – cell phone
$1,263.62 – school expenses
These expenses are outside of the costs associated with the children’s other sports activities which were already agreed upon.
The mother objected to this request on the basis that they constitute frivolous spending or gifting.
What were the expenses for?
The father provided a breakdown of the expenses, with the court describing some of them as being for haircuts, rain ponchos on a trip to an amusement park, belt and bath bombs, and more.
The court looked at the items and determined that they were mostly the type of purchases that either parent would make for their child and that even if the father had requested the mother’s approval in advance, they don’t for the most part qualify as section 7 expenses.
Some of the costs might normally qualify as section 7 expenses, such as cell phone expenses. However, the court noted that the father failed to follow the rules established in the 2019 order, and therefore he is unable to retroactively request reimbursement.
The case serves as an excellent example of the importance of abiding by an order and not making unilateral financial decisions about children if there is another party who has the right to provide input on such decisions.
To speak with an experienced Windsor family lawyer about child custody or support, call 519.973.1500, get started now or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, and also by lawyers, counsellors and other professionals