There’s no way around it — breakups are hard. They’re even harder when you’re left financially stranded, maybe because you have a child’s expenses to think about or because you relied on your ex-partner’s income.
The good news is that laws across Canada take these financial hardships into consideration. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to collect child or spousal support (or both).
What is child support?
Child support is a monthly payment made from one parent to another, if they share a child but they’re not in a relationship. Typically, the parent who does most of the caretaking gets the payment.
It goes towards necessities like food, clothing, diapers, housing, school expenses and extracurricular activities, so these financial responsibilities aren’t left on the primary caregiver alone.
How much is child support?
The rules of child support are set out in the Canadian government’s Child Support Guidelines (CSG), or similar local legislation. In any case, the amount comes down to income.
Looking at the CSG, there are two factors that make up a child support payment: the table amount and the special expenses payment.
The table amount, which is the basic monthly payment, is pretty straightforward to figure out. A simple calculation based on a recent tax return will determine the income to be considered for child support, and then there’s an actual table that specifies what the payment will be based on that amount.
The special expenses payment covers costs like childcare, healthcare and post-secondary studies, along with what the government calls “extraordinary” expenses for education or extracurricular activities (specialized education programs or competitive sports, to name a couple).
Special expenses are shared proportionately, meaning a court will look at what each person earns and split the cost of the expenses accordingly. So, you may end up receiving—or paying—a special expenses payment, depending which side of the income scale you’re on.
The complexities of child support
What if we share custody? What if the child is related biologically to my ex, but not to me? What if our child is legally an adult and attends university?
Of course, not every situation is cut and dry. The court takes all of this into consideration when deciding who gets child support and how much, with the common underlying factor being what’s in the best interest of the child.
What about spousal support?
Spousal support is also a payment made from one spouse to the other, but that’s about where the similarities between spousal and child support end.
Child support is a given because it supports the needs of a child. Spousal support, well, that’s a little (or a lot) more complicated.
It’s meant to support a spouse who’s fallen on financially tough times through their separation or divorce, though that’s a very broad description. Whether or not you’re entitled to spousal support depends on your specific circumstances.
If you quit your job during your marriage to care for your kids, for instance, you could be awarded spousal support because the decision to stay home was made before your separation. The issue of how much and for how long—that’s a level even deeper and more complicated than the last.
Courts will look at factors like the lifestyle you had as a couple and income earned when coming up with a spousal support amount. Some spouses will get a single, lump-sum support payment, while others are paid monthly for an indefinite amount of time. The goal is always for both spouses to become self-sufficient, with spousal support filling the gap in between.
Do common-law spouses qualify for spousal support?
They can, if laws where they live support it.
Provinces and territories set their own rules when it comes to defining what common-law is and what a common-law spouse qualifies for when there’s a relationship breakdown.
Married couples going through a divorce, however, follow Canada’s Divorce Act.
With all the rules and “what ifs” in a child or spousal support case, it’s best to call on a family lawyer to find out what applies to you. Vexxit can match you with a lawyer who’s skilled in cases like yours, to help you understand your rights as you navigate through the process.