The Child Support Guidelines provide a framework for determining the amount of child support that is payable by one parent to the other.

Generally speaking, the parent with less than 40% of parenting time is obligated to pay the parent who has primary residence of the child a monthly child support amount for the benefit of their child(ren). In a shared parenting arrangement, child support may be paid by both parents to each other (as a matter of a “set-off” ).

The Guidelines are based on the principle that both parents have a legal duty to support their children, and that the amount of support should be based on the income of the parent(s) who is/are paying support (the “payor”) and the number of children to be supported.

The Guidelines provide tables, in accordance with which, based on a parent’s gross income, one can determine the amount of support to be paid per month. The tables take a percentage of the payor parent’s gross income and provide an accurate amount of support to be paid while considering the number of children.

Two Acts govern child support in Ontario:

  1. For parents who are married and are divorcing – the Divorce Act; and,
  2. For unmarried parents who are separating – the Family Law Act.

The federal Child Support Guidelines are regulations appended to the Divorce Act, and they govern all child support. The provincial Child Support Guidelines are appended to the Family Law Act and they mirror the Federal Guidelines. This results in the amount of child support payable being same regardless of which Guidelines one uses to calculate the monthly child support amount.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how the Child Support Guidelines work:

  1. Determine the Payor’s Income: The first step in calculating child support under the Guidelines is to determine the payor’s annual income. This is usually based on the payor’s line 15000 income on their most recent income tax return. However, the court has discretion to use a different income if it finds that the income tax return does not accurately reflect the payor’s true income. If a support payor is self-employed or owns a business, determining that individuals income is far more complicated that using a payor’s line 15000 income.
  2. Refer to the Child Support Table: Once the payor’s income has been determined, the next step is to refer to the Child Support Table for the province where the payor resides. The Table provides the basic monthly amount of child support for different income levels taking number of children in consideration.
  3. Adjust for High Income: If the payor’s income exceeds $150,000, the court has discretion to adjust the amount of child support. The court may either apply the Table amount for the first $150,000 of income and an amount that it considers appropriate for the balance of the income, or it may award a different amount that it considers appropriate.
  4. Consider Special or Extraordinary Expenses: In addition to the basic monthly amount of child support, the court may also order the payor to contribute to special or extraordinary expenses. These are expenses that are necessary because of the child’s best interests and are either extraordinary or beyond the means of the primary parent, or would cause the primary parent undue hardship. Examples of special or extraordinary expenses include childcare expenses, medical expenses, and expenses for post-secondary education.
  5. Consider the Condition, Means, Needs and Other Circumstances of the Children and the Financial Ability of Each Parent: The court has the discretion to deviate from the Guidelines if it finds that the Table amount would be inequitable given the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the children and the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the support of the children.

It’s important to note that the Child Support Guidelines are the law, and courts are required to order child support amounts that are at least as much as the guideline amounts, unless special provisions apply. Both the Divorce Act (s. 15.1(3)) and the Family Law Act (s. 33(11)) specify that all orders for child support must be made in accordance with the applicable Guidelines.