Child Support: A must read for parents

Ever wonder why the women on the Maury Povich show want to confirm ‘who the father is’? My (jaded) guess: they want child support.

On that note, child support is one of the most commonly misunderstood subjects in family law. And, rightly so: it’s complicated.

So, in the interest of clearing up some of those misconceptions, this column will address some of the general laws/rules around child support.

To begin, what is child support? Put very simply, it is money paid by one parent (who doesn’t primarily reside with the child) to another parent (who does reside with the child) to cover those costs associated with raising that child, such as food and clothing.

How much money does someone actually pay? Well, this question is usually very easy to answer. Typically, the amount is based on the number of the children (who are receiving support) and the income (of the person being asked to pay support).

I’ll explain further…

There are Child Support Guidelines (i.e. tables) that state how much money someone should pay based on how much money that person earns and how many children that person has to support.

For your (extra) information, here is an online calculator provided by the government (that incorporates the Guidelines) that quickly calculates how much child support someone should pay: Child Support Calculator.

To illustrate, if you refer to the calculator, you’ll see that someone who earns $50,000.00/year and has two children will pay $758.00/month. It’s that simple…typically.

Now, there are exceptions; but, this is the general rule that applies to the vast majority of families.

And, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how the person earns the $50,000.00/year: it could be from investments, employment, or self-employment. It really doesn’t matter. And, on that note, it doesn’t matter how much someone’s expenses are, either....

In child support claims, it is very common to have the person who has to pay child support tell the judge/lawyers that they cannot afford it. They’ll explain that they have other expenses, that they just bought a new house, that they have other children, etc. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s the ugly truth: if you earn a particular amount of money per year, then it’s a ‘done deal’ – you pay ‘x amount’ based on the income you earn and the children you have to support. Your expenses are your problem and, if your expenses are too high, then don’t have those expenses.

Now, it may not surprise you to know that some people will tell a judge that they earn less money than they actually do, so their child support obligations are lower. Well, that doesn’t work…

Lawyers and judges are clever enough to calculate your income based on your expenses and your career. So, if you won’t provide an accurate annual income, one will be ‘assigned’ to you. And, you will pay child support based on that amount.

So, who exactly has to pay? Well, of course, biology is the big thing. If you’re a biological parent, then you’re going to owe child support.

But, what about former step-parents? Answer: a former step-parent is likely responsible for child support if he/she supported the child for at least one year and if the parent starts a lawsuit (against the step-parent) within one year of the support being last provided.

And, how long does someone have to pay child support? Answer: child support is payable for as long as the child is 18 years old or younger or is dependent on the parents. A child can be dependent on their parents if they are attending full-time university or if they have a medical condition (that prevents them from being self-supporting).

And, also know that dying won’t necessarily relieve you from paying child support. If a non-custodial parent passes away, then child support may continue to be paid from the person’s estate.

As a last general tip, try your best to resolve child support disputes, as well as other family law disputes, outside of court. You’ll likely save a lot of money and a lot of stress.

And now you know.


**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought. 

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About the Author

Jeff Zilkowsky is a lawyer practicing at MacLean Law in the Lower Mainland and in Kelowna, and focuses his practice on family law and litigation.  

In his column, Jeff provides information about current legal events or points of interest or concern relating to the law. 

The information contained in Jeff’s column should not be used or relied upon as legal advice.

Comments are always appreciated and encouraged, so don’t hesitate to email Jeff at [email protected]

Visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffzilkowsky.com or visit the website of MacLean Law.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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