Extraordinary child support expenses mean you could be paying for your children’s leisure time

Extraordinary expenses are more than the asking parent can reasonably handle, taking their income into account.
Extraordinary expenses are more than the asking parent can reasonably handle, taking their income into account. Photo: iStock.

Canadian law tries to make sure that after divorce or separation, children are properly taken care of; physically, emotionally, and financially.

However, this means that a parent can be on the hook for expenses above normal child support. We have federal legislation that determines not only child support payments, but also “special and extraordinary expenses” through the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

The guidelines define such expenses as:

  • Necessary because they are in the child’s best interests; and
  • Reasonable given the means of the parents and the child and in light of the family’s spending patterns before the separation.

Extraordinary expenses are more than the asking parent can reasonably handle, taking their income into account. Usually courts try to split these expenses between the parents, noting their incomes and other factors, such as expenses of both parents and the family’s spending pattern before separation.

S. 7 also outlines the kinds of costs that fall under the guidelines and when they’re applicable. Examples of such expenses are:

  • Child-care expenses;
  • Extraordinary expenses for the child’s education;
  • Expenses for the child’s extracurricular activities;
  • Expenses for the child’s post-secondary education and more.

It is important for the court to balance the best interests of the child in these cases with what is reasonable and necessary for the child, because the awards for special and extraordinary expenses will be added on top of child support payments. The court is not going to agree to every single expense if it doesn’t think it necessary for the well-being of the child.

Such is the case in a recent decision out of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Jakymiw. v. Naccarato.

In the case, Judge R. John Harper had to determine the amount of child arrears, for both child support payments and s. 7 expenses.

In his analyses, Harper looked at all the special and extraordinary expenses the requesting party claimed, which included:

Horse riding lessons, summer camp, horse camp, a trip to Italy, piano lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons, passport fees, confirmation expenses, orthodontic expenses, and chiropractic expenses.

Harper agreed to award expenses for the horseback riding lessons, because the child excelled at it and enjoyed it very much. However, the rest of the charges around horseback riding, such as horse camp, he refused to award, because he did not find them “to be legitimate extraordinary expenses.”

He also refused awards for the trip to Italy, the child’s confirmation and passport costs, but approved the rest of the expenses.

As can be seen by the above example, courts tend to take a balanced approach to these types of awards. However, that doesn’t mean these awards aren’t costly.

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