The separation of a couple with children has always been synonymous with the words “alimony. One of the spouses will have to pay child support to meet the needs of their children. Sometimes, the spouse will even be required to pay support to the former spouse but in this article, we will focus on child support.
As a recently separated parent and soon to become involved in the family court process, there are a couple of things you should know about child support, including how much you may be required to pay. Here’s how a lawyer can help you pay (or get you paid) the right price!
What are the obligations of parents towards their children?
Before we discuss the specific details of child support, let’s briefly discuss the general obligations between parents and their children. As such, why are parents compelled to pay this support to their offspring? In addition to parental responsibility and the basic moral duty to provide for the needs of those we have brought into the world, the law explicitly provides that children and parents owe each other support.
It is, therefore, a two-way relationship in which both parent and child owe each other assistance in proportion to their means. Moreover, this obligation does not disappear when the child comes of age (18 years); it persists as long as the latter is not financially independent, as long as he demonstrates a will and effort to one day stand on his own feet.
How does the child’s obligation towards his parent manifest itself? For example, a child who is doing well financially and who, after reaching a certain age, neglects to provide for his elderly, ill, and financially struggling parents, may be forced to pay them “support”. This obligation lasts a lifetime.
This provision therefore explains the reason for the maintenance to be paid and the logic behind it, namely the fact that it allows for the execution monetarily what cannot be done in kind. Since the child is in shared or sole custody, one of the two parents is not able to contribute as much as the other on a daily basis so the law compensates for this by paying a monthly amount.
Now that you understand the purpose of child support, how will you know how much is the right amount to pay? You can do this by learning more about the Quebec model for determining child support payments! These are the scales that set the right amount to pay and how lawyers enforce them.
The Quebec Model for Determining Child Support
In order to avoid endless lawsuits, unnecessary legal and vicious debates, the government of Quebec decided to put in place mandatory guidelines and scales aimed at fixing child support. This is called the Quebec Model of Child Support.
This model provides for all possible scenarios in terms of child custody (exclusive or shared), parental income, access rights, etc. Thus, this model allows the court to immediately identify the family situation and stick it to the corresponding scale. This is a three-step process aimed at establishing the pension:
Establish the disposable income separately: The disposable income corresponds to the annual income minus the basic deduction provided in the fixed table.
Establish the disposable income jointly: The basic parental contribution corresponds to the amount of disposable income of both parents which corresponds to the amount of the fixed table.
Determine the parental contribution of each: To determine the amount of this contribution, it is necessary to find the added amount of parental disposable income in the fixed table to obtain the corresponding amount.
For example, a scale provides for sole custody entrusted to the mother. The court, based on the model, will analyze the financial means of each of the parents, the basic obligatory contributions of both, the costs related to the care as well as the other related expenses to fix the amount that the father owes per month to the child and mother. You will, therefore, notice that the court considers the type and length of custody entrusted to each parent as a guide in determining the amount to be paid.
When should you start the support process? As soon as possible after separation! There are always legal delays in such appeals so don’t wait. When applying for divorce, the documents relating to alimony must be attached to the application.
Can we deviate from the child support model? Yes, but this modification must be made by both parents and by mutual agreement, in addition to being approved by the judge. The latter will check the submitted modification request to see if it still meets the needs of the child. Parents will also have to justify their request for exemption so that the judge can take them into account in a subsequent request for review, if applicable.
It is also possible for a parent to reduce their financial obligations under the child support model by claiming that the amount set is causing them undue hardship. The court is therefore not bound by this model and may revise the scales when these would have the effect of creating financial injustice for one of the parents.
Divorce and alimony, the exceptions that apply!
Whether a couple is married, in a civil union, or a de facto union, or the child is not the result of a relationship, the payment and the method of fixing support payments will not change. However, only one exception is applicable and it is found at the level of divorce.
When spouses divorce and the union is dissolved, if one of them lives outside Quebec, it is not the Quebec Model for the Determination of Child Support that will apply but rather federal laws governing support.
The expenses and documents covered by alimony
Alimony is intended to cover expenses that meet the basic needs of children. It does not cover special expenses which are rather separate in proportion to the parents’ income. Here are the differences between these two types of expenses:
- Transportation for recreation / needs of the child
- School registration
- School supplies
- Basic dental fees.
- Childcare costs to attend to professional or school obligations
- The cost of higher education
- Housing and maintenance costs related to higher education
- Expenses meeting the special needs of the child
Unlike the essential expenses which are paid by the calculation of the alimony, the special costs are distributed in proportion to the disposable income that the parents reported during the alimony proceedings.
Can the amount of the support be changed?
In theory, the law provides that the basic parental contribution is presumed sufficient to meet all the basic needs of the child. This presumption is simple and can be overturned by proving its insufficiency. Conversely, a parent could be released from his responsibility to pay it in full by proving that he really does not have the means and that the legal obligation would cause him hardship.
In addition, when a person is already paying multiple child support payments to various children, the child support model may make his life financially difficult. While some rightly say that this is only a natural justice case, the law still provides that this poor fellow can go to court to request a hearing to reduce his payments. Here are some examples that may justify a deviation from the legal model:
- Excessive difficulty in exercising visitation and access rights for the non-custodial parent.
- A parent is in a situation of over-indebtedness or financially unstable.
- The non-custodial parent fails to meet their shared custody or access rights responsibilities, placing an additional burden on the other spouse.
Once set up, there must be a good reason for requesting a change in the amount of support to be paid. Although the court confers a binding character on the Model for the determination of support payments, it nevertheless has an important discretionary power. You will need to prove a significant change in circumstances for a judge to hear your case.
When does child support end?
The payment of child support does not stop at the age of 18. This is an obligation that lasts until the child is financially independent and able to support himself or herself. The amount can be revised by a request presented to the Court when significant changes occur in the lives of the parents and children concerned.
For example, once the child has reached the age of 18, the parent who owes support may apply to the court to have the amount changed, alleging a change in circumstances in their child’s life.
If the child works part-time or is no longer in school, the amount will likely be reduced, just as it could stay exactly the same if that child pursues higher education in a distant city. It will be up to the judge to decide!
What can a lawyer do in a child support claim?
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to deviate from the Pension Fixing Model when the circumstances allow. As a result, a family lawyer who is accustomed to arguing in court about child support may:
- Request a review / modification of the established pension
- Submit a request for exemption from the amounts of the Fixing Model
- Represent you in a joint divorce petition
- Represent you in a joint application for shared custody
- Evaluate if the support you are currently paying is correct
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