Child Support in British Columbia is a legal obligation that parents have to provide financial support for their children after separation or divorce. The province follows specific guidelines designed to ensure that children maintain a standard of living comparable to what they had when their parents were together. This blog post explores how child support is calculated in BC, the factors considered in determining the amount, and how support orders are enforced.

Overview of Child Support in BC

Child support in BC is governed by both the federal Divorce Act for married parents and the Family Law Act for unmarried parents or those who were married but are not pursuing a divorce through federal court. These laws ensure that child support decisions are made in the best interests of the children and reflect their right to financial support from both parents.

How Child Support is Calculated

Child support in BC primarily depends on the guidelines set out in the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which apply across Canada. The calculation is straightforward and starts with the income of the paying parent.

1. Determining Income

The first step is establishing the annual income of the parent who will be paying child support. This income is typically what is reported on line 150 of the parent’s tax return, although adjustments may be made based on factors such as capital gains, business investments, and other relevant financial circumstances.

  • Tax Returns: The most recent tax return is typically used as the basis for determining income. However, if the parent’s income has changed since the last tax filing, other documentation such as pay stubs or employer letters may be used.
  • Self-Employment: For self-employed parents, income calculations can be more complex, taking into account business expenses that are reasonably necessary to earn that income.

2. Applying the Guidelines

Once income is established, the guidelines provide tables (specific to each province) that dictate the monthly amount of child support based on the payer’s income and the number of children. For example, in BC, a parent earning $50,000 annually would refer to the BC table under the Federal Guidelines to find the corresponding monthly child support payment for one, two, or more children.

3. Adjustments for Parenting Time:

  • Shared Custody: When children spend at least 40% of their time with each parent, child support may be adjusted. Typically, both parents’ incomes are considered, and the higher-earning parent may pay the difference between the two amounts that would be owed by each parent.
  • Split Custody: If there are multiple children and each parent has one or more children living with them primarily, support is calculated by offsetting the amounts that each parent would otherwise pay if they were the paying parent for all children.

4. Special or Extraordinary Expenses

In addition to the table amount, parents may be required to contribute to special or extraordinary expenses. These can include costs related to childcare, education, medical expenses, and extracurricular activities. Typically, these expenses are shared proportionally to each parent’s income.

  • Medical or Dental Expenses: Costs not covered by insurance, such as orthodontics.
  • Education or Training for the Child: Special educational needs or private school tuition if it was the family’s standard before separation.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Significant costs associated with activities like competitive sports or music lessons.

Factors Considered in Calculating Child Support

Several factors can influence the calculation of child support in BC:

  • Parenting Arrangements: The amount of time a child spends with each parent can affect child support payments. In shared custody situations, where a child spends at least 40% of the time with each parent, the amount of child support might be adjusted based on the income of both parents and the proportion of time spent with each child.
  • Income of Both Parents: While the primary focus is on the payer’s income, the recipient’s income can also play a role, especially in shared custody cases or if the recipient’s income significantly exceeds that of the payer.
  • Age and Number of Children: The age and number of children can affect the amount, as older children or more children generally require more support.
  • Special Needs: If a child has special needs, additional support may be required to cover related expenses.

Enforcement of Child Support Orders

In BC, child support orders are legally enforceable. The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) is a government service in BC that helps ensure support payments are made:

  • Monitoring Payments: The FMEP monitors and collects the payments from the paying parent and transfers them to the recipient.
  • Enforcing Orders: If payments are not made, the FMEP has several tools for enforcement, including garnishing wages, seizing bank accounts, intercepting tax refunds, and even restricting travel by denying the issuance of passports.
  • Making Modifications: Either parent can apply to the court to have the support amount changed if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income, employment, or the needs of the child. Changes in circumstances such as a parent’s job loss, a child’s new needs, or a significant change in custody arrangements can justify a modification of the support order. This requires going back to court or using alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation to adjust the support amount.
  • Enforcement Through FMEP:
    • Garnishing Wages: The FMEP can direct employers to divert a portion of the owing parent’s wage directly to the FMEP for distribution.
    • Seizing Assets: The FMEP can seize bank accounts or other assets to cover unpaid support.
    • License Denials: The FMEP can request that certain licenses, like a driver’s license, be suspended until overdue payments are made.

Pax Law can help you!

Child support is a vital component of family law in BC, ensuring that children receive the financial support necessary for their well-being after their parents’ relationship ends. Understanding how child support is calculated, the factors considered, and the methods of enforcement can help parents navigate the complexities of family law and uphold their children’s rights. As with any legal matter, consulting with a qualified family law attorney can provide clarity and guidance tailored to individual circumstances, ensuring that both the legal requirements and the best interests of the children are met.

Navigating the complexities of family law issues in British Columbia requires expert guidance and support. Amir-Homayoun Phil Rigi, an articling student at Pax Law Corporation, brings a unique blend of legal understanding, compassionate client care, and strategic advocacy to a wide range of family law matters. His personalized approach, commitment to efficiency, and dedication to protecting your rights make him a valuable ally. By working with Amir-Homayoun, you can achieve favorable outcomes in various family law proceedings, ensuring a brighter future for you and your family.

Our lawyers and consultants are willing, ready, and able to assist you. Please visit our appointment booking page to make an appointment with one of our lawyers or consultants; alternatively, you can call our offices at +1-604-767-9529.


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