A parent or a legal guardian of a child can initiate Child Support and Expense Claim before a court of competent jurisdiction in Alberta under the Divorce Act of Canada or Family Law Act of Alberta. The child himself, or any person with the permission of the Court can also initiate the claim.
After separation, the law requires the separating parties to make financial arrangement to cover the extracurricular activities, and other reasonable and genuine expenses for the children of the marriage.
It is sometimes difficult to determine if an extracurricular expense should be classified as extraordinary expense for child support purposes.
The Court usually considers various factors to determine special and extraordinary expenses such as:
- types of extraordinary expenses incurred by the parents before the separation
The Supreme Court of Canada in D.B.S. vs S.R.G 2 SCR 231 stated that:
“Parentage, in and of itself establishes a support obligation upon the birth of a child, parents are immediately placed in the roles of guardians and providers, for over a century, this parent-child relationship has been understood as entailing both moral and legal obligations towards the child notwithstanding the breakdown of his or her parents’ marriage and should to the extent possible, provide the children with the standard of living they should enjoy during the time the parents are living together.”
It is interesting to note from the above analysis that both parents have flowing responsibilities to support their children irrespective of the status of the marriage. These responsibilities are not limited just to moral and financial responsibilities.
Therefore, in the event of marriage separation, the general well-being of the children is to be treated on a balanced scale and with legal sanction.
Definition of “Extraordinary Expenses”
(1.1) For the purposes of paragraphs (1)(d) and (f) below, 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.
Determining Special or Extraordinary Expenses
Under section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, the Court has a wide range of discretion to declare certain expenses as special and extraordinary expenses by considering the children’s best interest.
Extraordinary expenses can be school expenses such as paid tuition amount and other fees required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible institution. A precondition for enrollment may also be regarded as claimable school or educational expenses. For example, if a computer is a precondition for enrollment or admission, such will be considered as claimable educational expense.
Sometimes extracurricular activities do not form part of the core school syllabus, and are optional, yet still educational and informing. Such activities can include debating clubs, musicals activities, arts and sports.
Special or extraordinary expenses are determined according to Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which is as follows:
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 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 counseling 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.
Sharing of Expense
(2) The guiding principle in determining an expense amount (referred to in subsection (1) above) is that the spouses share the expense in proportion to their respective incomes after deducting from the expense any contribution from the child.
Subsidies, Tax Deductions, etc.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), in determining the amount of an expense referred to in subsection (1), the Court must take into account any subsidies, benefits or income tax deductions or credits relating to the expense, and any eligibility to claim a subsidy, benefit or income tax deduction or credit relating to the expense.
Universal Child Care Benefit
(4) In determining the amount of an expense referred to in subsection (1), the Court shall not take into account any universal child care benefit or any eligibility to claim that benefit.
Note that Alberta Child Support Guidelines apply if you start your claim under the Family Law Act of Alberta.
For legal advice and representation in family law matters, we recommend you consult an Alberta family lawyer. A family lawyer can bring or defend a special and extraordinary expense claim on your behalf, and make submissions to the Court. Contact us for more information on what a family lawyer can do for you.
Satish offers professional legal advice and experience drawn from a multicultural background. He has spent his years in practice supporting clients through their family law, business law, real estate law, immigration law and wills and estates matters. He is able to find innovative solutions for his clients thanks to his rich, diverse background, which allows him to examine clients’ legal problems from a variety of different perspectives.