One of the elements that will be considered by a court in making child support determinations are extraordinary expenses, also known as “section 7” expenses.

What are Section 7 Expenses?

In every jurisdiction across Canada, child support is governed by the federal Child Support Guidelines (“CSG”) which have created a clear formula for a) which parent pays the support b) how much that support must be and c) how long support payments must be made. This determination is generally made using the standardized child support tables found in the CSG’s.

Section 7 of CSG’s provides for “special or extraordinary expenses”, which are expenses that a payor (i.e-the parent making child support payments) may be required to pay above and beyond the amount of child support outlined in the child support tables.

The CSG’s define section 7 expenses as expenses that are a) necessary because they are in the child’s best interests; and b) reasonable given the parents’ means and spending patterns prior to separation.

There are six types of expenses that are contemplated by section 7 and which may result in additional or increased child support payments:

  • Child care expenses a parent may incur if the child spends the majority of the time with them;
  • Medical and dental insurance premiums for the child;
  • Health care needs that exceed $100 per year where they are not covered by insurance (ex- orthodontics, eye care, and similar);
  • Post-secondary tuition and other education expenses;
  • Expenses for specific educational programs that meet the child’s needs;
  • Expenses for extracurricular activities.

What Makes Expenses “Extraordinary”?

Of the six types of Section 7 expenses that are contemplated by the CSG’s, some (such as child care expenses incurred by a working parent with primary custody, or post-secondary expenses) will almost always be considered by a court to be extraordinary, and will justify additional child support payments by the payor.

Other expenses in the list may not always result in additional child support payments. For instance, courts retain a great deal of discretion over what constitutes an “extraordinary expense” for an extracurricular activity. Expenses for extracurricular activities or education will only be deemed extraordinary where:

  • They are more than a parent can reasonably pay taking into account the amount of child support they receive and their income;
  • They are not more than the parent can reasonably pay, but extraordinary when you consider:
    • The nature and number of extracurricular activities or educational programs the child takes part in
    • The overall cost of these extracurricular activities or educational programs
    • Any special talents or needs the child may have.

For instance, some children participate in sports or other activities at competitive levels, requiring travel, equipment, and other expenses. Participation in such high level activities is generally considered extraordinary since the activity is usually quite expensive, beyond the ability of one parent to pay for, and requires special talent on the part of the child. In such circumstances, the activity will generally qualify for additional support payments in recognition of these increased costs.

In situations where children participate in extracurricular activities at a less competitive level, or just for fun, the court will have more discretion with respect to whether award additional support payments to cover these costs, and the parent receiving child support may not receive more money.

What Does this Mean in Practice?

Not all expenses incurred in the course of raising a child will result in higher child support payments. Some are likely to, but others will depend on the specific circumstances.

Where extraordinary expenses are determined, they will be added to the basic monthly child support payments the payor makes. These additional expense can be adjusted as time goes on and the child’s level of participation increases or decreases.

Child support can be a technically challenging and emotionally thorny issue during a separation or divorce. If you have questions about child support, please contact experienced family lawyer Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.