It is common knowledge that when couples with children separate or divorce there may be spousal or child support obligations from one parent to another. However, child support may not cover all of the expenses that come with raising a child. One-off, unknown, or special expenses are addressed in Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines and are known as Section 7 expenses. Courts may require a parent to pay for some or all of these expenses, which may include child care, post-secondary education, extracurricular activities. But what about the costs associated with the commitment of a crime? Whether this could qualify as a Section 7 expense was recently an issue before Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice.

Landing in trouble with the law

The couple had one child, a daughter who was 23 years old at the time of the trial and at that time had been living with the father and the mother at different times. She had finished high school and was looking towards starting her post-secondary education. In 2017 she was charged with driving under the influence and possession of narcotics. The mother paid over $10,000 to help her daughter with her defense costs. The mother also paid $9,160 in legal fees, $1,250 for a vehicle monitoring device, $198 to have the daughter’s driver’s license reinstated, and $634 for a remedial impaired drivers program. The mother paid these costs without first consulting the father, stating her goal in doing so was to “minimize the effect this mistake would have on (the daughter’s) adult life.

The father, meanwhile, claimed he didn’t ever agree to pay for these expenses, and in fact, had begged the daughter not to drink and drive. In his opinion, she would be better off paying the expenses herself and learning from her mistakes.

Exploring Section 7 expenses

Section 7 expenses, including what does and does not qualify, are covered under Ontario’s Child Support Guidelines as follows:

7 (1) In a child support order the court may, on either spouse’s request, provide for an amount to cover all or any portion of the following expenses, which expenses may be estimated, taking into account the necessity of the expense in relation to the child’s best interests and the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the spouses and those of the child and to the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation:

  • (a)child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability or education or training for employment;
  • (b)that portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
  • (c)health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counseling provided by a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses;
  • (d)extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs;
  • (e)expenses for post-secondary education; and
  • (f)extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.”

Expenses related to those incurred by the daughter are not explicitly covered in the Guidelines. After reviewing decisions from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice from 2013 and 2014, the court determined that a parent’s payment of legal fees on behalf of a child do not qualify as Section 7 expenses.

Jason P. Howie has over 25 years of experience dealing with all types of family law issues, and knows it is important for people going through family law issues to receive reliable, well-informed legal advice with their best interest in mind. Our firm takes a calm, rational approach to the issues faced by our clients, understanding that some matters require urgency, while others call for a steady, methodical approach. Regardless of what your situation is, we are equipped to help you through it. Please call us at 519.973.1500 or reach us online to see how we can help you today.