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Federal and Alberta Child Support Guidelines separate child support expenses into two categories.  Section 7 of the federal law describes child-related expenses beyond the baseline expenses considered within Section 3, such as housing, clothing, and food.  Section 7 broadens the scope of the expenses covered by child support in Alberta to include additional or extraordinary bills necessary for maintaining a child’s lifestyle and wellness.

Families have different incomes and needs.  The Alberta Section 7 expenses guidelines do not require every parent to pay every type of expense authorized by Section 7.  Your individual circumstances and justifiable desires determine the assignment of these expenses.  Consulting a lawyer experienced with Alberta family law will provide you with specific insights about how your child support will be calculated.

What Do Section 7 Child Expenses Include in Alberta?

Child care expenses – A custodial parent who needs to pay for child care for the purpose of going to work or attending school for employment has a legal right to request support from the other parent to cover a share of this cost.  A parent who is ill or disabled also may request support to pay for child care services.

Health-related expenses not covered by insurance – The uninsured cost of medical and dental services qualifies as a Section 7 expense.  This category includes bills for prescription drugs, orthodontics, and prescription lenses.

Post-secondary education – Just as couples who together share the burden of paying for their children’s attendance at universities or trade schools, separated or divorced parents must do the same.  Support payments could apply to tuition, school housing, fees, and text books.

Extracurricular activities – Children often produce additional costs for music lessons, athletics, and other organized group activities.  These enriching activities are often viewed as important for a child’s development and happiness.  A court will likely agree that both parents should split the cost of extracurricular activities especially if the child participated in them prior to the end of the parents’ relationship.

Extraordinary educational costs – Section 7 recognizes that children may require additional services during primary or secondary school.  Examples of these expenses include fees for tutors or field trips.

Medical and dental insurance premiums over $100 annually – Keeping a child on a medical or dental plan costs money.  The law will support reasonable requests that child support amounts include a share of the expense of a child’s portion of the insurance premium.

Who Pays Section 7 Child Expenses?

The Federal Child Support Guidelines expect both parents to contribute to Section 7 expenses.  The division of the cost might be equal or unequal depending on parental income.

Whether you will be receiving or paying a portion of a Section 7 expense, you need to be ready to document your income and the need for the support.  The health conditions of a special needs child can be illustrated with reports and letters from medical professionals.

When Are Section 7 Expenses Necessary?

As with all things related to child custody and support, the best interests of the child guide judicial decisions about Section 7 expenses.  Your request that a child support order includes one or more Section 7 expenses needs to include supporting documentation that demonstrates the need for the payment.

A court weighs Section 7 decisions based on:

  • Necessity
  • Reasonableness
  • Family spending patterns

Necessity presents the first factor. A child with health problems will need to see medical professionals more often than the average healthy child.  Additional medical bills and insurance premiums will burden the parents financially. The necessity of these expenses is quite clear.

Outside of obvious necessity, an expense might still be deemed necessary if it would serve the best interests of the child.  A child gifted in academics, music, or athletics, might already have been engaged in special programs or attending a private academy.  Such expenses could qualify as a necessity because denying the child the opportunity to continue these activities would go against the child’s best interests.

Even if you cannot argue that an expense is absolutely necessary, it may be reasonable.  Any child, even in the absence of special talents, deserves a chance to participate in extracurricular activities.  Therefore, athletic fees or travel costs for field trips could meet the standard of reasonableness under many circumstances.

Additionally, most parents agree that their children should have a chance to attend post-secondary educational institutions.  Having both parents contribute to the cost is reasonable.

However, the reasonableness standard could help you push back against requests for support that appear unreasonable.  For example, if a parent suddenly wants a child to go to private school, then a court might not agree that the extra expense is reasonable in light of the parent not desiring it previously.

Family spending patterns factor into Section 7 expense decisions as well.  Previous spending behaviour can help a judge know whether an expense is reasonable.  Family law directs the courts to try and maintain a child’s material lifestyle after a divorce.  Expenses that parents were paying for prior to a divorce create a pattern that justifies a continuance of paying for those expenses.

How Are Section 7 Expenses Calculated in Alberta?

Parents with roughly equal income levels would divide the bills 50/50. The share shifts when one parent has a higher income.  For example, a parent whose income is 30% higher than the other parent’s income would pay a share 30% higher than the co-parent.

Various tax deductions, credits, or other subsidies could also factor into the support amount that a parent is directed to pay.  Any available benefits that would reduce the cost burden of a child-related expense would deduct from the amount that either parent needs to pay.

Negotiating Section 7 Expenses Between Parents

You do not have to leave the final decisions and calculations of Section 7 expenses in the hands of a court.  Parents may negotiate between themselves privately about how they will divide the extra costs associated with raising their children.

Although coming to terms with a former partner can be challenging, you would benefit from working out a deal privately.  You would not have to wait for a court date or pay the extra legal fees necessary for a hearing before a judge.  You also avoid the risk of a court not approving your request or burdening you with a cost that you had not expected to pay.

Advice from a child support lawyer in Edmonton could prepare you to negotiate these expenses.  A lawyer will help you understand what expenses are included in child support.  This information lets a parent know what would be included under Section 3 and what could qualify under Section 7.

When speaking with the co-parent, you may find it helpful to present the receipts for the current expenses.  The documentation could aid in resolving the matter when a parent sees what services are being provided.  If you think that you are being asked to pay too much or a co-parent rejects your request, an Edmonton family lawyer can advance the issue to a courtroom and communicate your needs.

Speak With an Edmonton Child Support Lawyer

Most parents want what is best for their children.  When negotiating child support amounts with a co-parent, you need to know everything that should factor into that decision.  At Kolinsky Law, we represent people in all matters of family law.  We aim to broker efficient solutions that meet a family’s financial situation whether that means going to court or conducting private negotiations.  To make fully informed decisions about child support, contact our office today.