In a previous piece (available here), we discussed parents’ obligations to pay child support in respect of only the Basic Monthly Amount. This piece considers the obligations in respect of Section 7 Expenses.
- Basic Monthly Amount – in accordance with child support tables; and
- Section 7 Expenses – an amount of child support in respect of special or extraordinary expenses, if any.
Under each set of Child Support Guidelines, a parent may be required to pay, or entitled to receive payment of, an amount in respect of certain special or extraordinary expenses relating to a child (above the Basic Monthly Amount). Section 7 Expenses must fall within the prescribed list of expenses in paragraphs 7(1)(a) to (f) and must also be necessary and reasonable.
With regard to Section 7 Expenses, the Child Support Guidelines include the following expenses:
- child care expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, illness, disability, education or training for employment;
- insurance premiums for medical and dental coverage attributable to the child;
- health-related expenses, including orthodontics, professional counselling, speech therapy and glasses;
- extraordinary expenses for primary school or secondary school or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s needs, such as private school and tutoring;
- post-secondary education expenses; and
- extracurricular activities, if extraordinary.
The full list of special or extraordinary expenses is set out in paragraphs 7(1)(a) to (f) of the Child Support Guidelines, which is intended to be exhaustive.
Once an expense is found to fit within the prescribed list, a court will seek to understand whether the expense is necessary and reasonable. A court will require: details of the expense, estimate or receipt; details of the need for the expense; and the reasonableness of the expense, having regard to the child support table amount, the parties’ incomes, the special needs or abilities of the child and any other factors.
The onus to prove that the expense is a Section 7 Expense falls on the parent who seeks contribution or payment for the special or extraordinary expense.
It would be improper to claim a Section 7 Expense for every out-of-pocket expense. However, an expense may qualify as a Section 7 Expense for one family, but not be necessary or reasonable for another family, because the courts have wide discretion to make these decisions. Similarly, the very same extracurricular expense, or school expense, may be extraordinary for one family (and qualify as a Section 7 Expense) but be usual and ordinary for a higher income family (and not qualify as a Section 7 Expense).
Some examples of expenses that have been found to be Section 7 Expenses include the following:
- University-related expenses, including tuition, books and room and board (Ford v. Shuter);
- Music lessons (Ford v. Shuter);
- Private school, wisdom tooth removal, cell phones and laptops, automobile insurance and travel to and from school and work (Gagne v. Gagne);
- Enrollment at an Arts School, music theatre fees, costs of a choir trip, violin lessons, dance wear and acting lessons, as well as hockey registration costs, hockey equipment, skates, power skating lessons, child’s costs of hockey tournaments and summer camp (Black-Johnson v. Black);
- An activity that that child enjoyed prior to separation and continues to enjoy, such as jiu-jitsu lessons (Thomas v. Simard-Thomas); and
- Camps used as a means of childcare during summer months (Ford v. Shuter).
In contrast, the following expenses have been held not to meet the requirements to be Section 7 Expenses:
- Costs for driver’s training, personal trainer, vitamins and supplements, parent’s costs for travel and accommodation at a child’s sports tournaments (Rondelet v. Neff);
- School uniforms and school fees in some circumstances (Shaw v. Friesen);
- Public transit expenses, costs of a driver’s licence and clothing (Black-Johnson v. Black); and
- In circumstances of a high income payor with a substantial Basic Monthly Amount, children’s telephone plan, snowboarding/sailing costs, piano lessons, Mandarin lessons (where there was no cultural connection to learn the language), sports, dance, guitar expenses, skiing lessons and ski equipment rentals, school books and proposed technological equipment to assist with a learning challenge (Brock v. Sorger).