Special expenses:  What are they?

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Special Expenses Are Set Out In Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines which reads as follows:

Special Expenses:

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 counselling 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.

The Guidelines define "special expenses" as follows:

For the purposes of paragraphs (1)(d) and (f), the term “extraordinary expenses” means

(a) expenses that exceed those that the spouse requesting an amount for the extraordinary expenses can reasonably cover, taking into account that spouse’s income and the amount that the spouse would receive under the applicable table or, where the court has determined that the table amount is inappropriate, the amount that the court has otherwise determined is appropriate; or

(b) where paragraph (a) is not applicable, expenses that the court considers are extraordinary taking into account

(i) the amount of the expense in relation to the income of the spouse requesting the amount, including the amount that the spouse would receive under the applicable table or, where the court has determined that the table amount is inappropriate, the amount that the court has otherwise determined is appropriate,

(ii) the nature and number of the educational programs and extracurricular activities,

(iii) any special needs and talents of the child or children,

(iv) the overall cost of the programs and activities, and

(v) any other similar factor that the court considers relevant.

Such costs are set out in section 7 of the Federal Child Support Advisory Guidelines. Watch the video above. One of our lawyers, Val Hemminger, explains this concept. Although parents sometimes share these expenses on an equal basis, the guidelines suggest that they be shared pro-rata based upon the parents' respective incomes. 

For example, if one parent makes $100,000 and the other parent makes $50,000 per year, the higher earning payment will pay 67% of such costs and the lower earning parent will pay 33%.

The thing is that it people often get confused as to what such an expense really is. Certain things are easy like when a child needs braces, tutoring, or daycare to allow their parent to attend work, but others are not so straight forward.

Other special expenses are less certain. Special expenses are not to be confused with simply the cost of extra-curricular activities. For example, let's say the Dad who does not have the child in his full-time care pays the Mom child support based upon a guideline income of $100,000 per year. This would mean, at least in British Columbia, that he pays $921 per month in child support.

Special expenses are payable in addition to the table amount of child support that this Dad pays. Let's say this child is registered in and plays hockey. This costs $4,000 per year. The question then is whether or not the $921 per month that Dad already pays is already his contribution to the hockey cost or is it an expense that should be shared in addition to the guideline support he pays?

The answer to this really depends on the circumstances. A lot of the time, because of the significant cost, we advise that such an expense like hockey does qualify as a special expense. Like other cases, however, it always depends on the particular circumstances of the case. 

Contact us at Hemminger Law Group for your legal consultation.

Return from special expenses

Phone us now at 250-220-8686 or use our contact us form.

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At Hemminger Law Group we commit to providing you with the highest quality legal information on this website. However, nothing on this website should be construed as actual legal advice. Every case is different and it is important that you consult a lawyer before making any decisions with respect to a legal matter.

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