What are Section 7 Expenses?
Section 7 expenses, are also referred to as special or extraordinary expenses
Section 7 expenses also form part of the payments a parent might make as child support in Canada
While certain expenses might be extraordinary for one family, they might fall within what is considered reasonable for another.
If there is no agreement about these payments, or if both parents agree that no section 7 expenses apply, then the applicable child support payment will be only the table amount in the Guidelines.
Section 7 expenses, also referred to as special or extraordinary expenses, form part of the payments a parent might make as child support in Canada. They are called by this name after section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines which explains these expenses.
Special or extraordinary expenses might include amounts for various items that parents deem a child requires. However, for any expense to qualify as a section 7 expense, the general requirement is that it must be:
- Necessary, which means that it must be in the child’s best interests;
- Reasonable, especially when compared to the parents’ means; and
- Consistent, in relation to the family’s spending patterns before separation
When determining these expenses, the parent applying for a court order or presenting these expenses in mediation proceedings will have to prove the requested amounts.
What expenses are included in child support?
As a rule, child support payments in Canada are calculated based on the government’s projection for what is reasonable for a child to live on (called the table amount) and section 7 expenses. The goal of child support is to provide additional income to a custodial parent to help them maintain a reasonable standard of living for a child.
The table amount is provided in the Child Support Guidelines which contains a Child Support Table for each Canadian province. How much each parent pays as child support will depend on their yearly gross income and how many children the marriage produced.
While these amounts are fixed within the Table, they are calculated to take into account usual expenses of a custodial parent. For instance, a parent living in a one-bed apartment might need to rent a two-bed because they now have custody of the child. Child support payments are intended to assist with this expense. Other usual expenses include feeding, electricity, heating, etc.
Compared to the table amount, section 7 expenses cover special or extraordinary expenses. By definition, these expenses are beyond the usual expenses that a child would ordinarily need to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
Is clothing a section 7 expense?
Not necessarily. Usual day-to-day clothing will usually be considered a normal expense associated with raising a child. However, major clothing items such as those required for sports or other extracurriculars, winter jackets or boots, etc. may qualify.
It is important to keep in mind that what amounts to a section 7 expense might differ from family to family. While certain expenses might be extraordinary for one family, they might fall within what is considered reasonable for another.
That said, the Child Support Guidelines lists items that would typically fall within special or extraordinary expenses. They include:
- Child care expenses relating to illness, education of a parent, employment, or disability. These expenses might cover the cost of private babysitting or day care
- Insurance premiums for dental or medical insurance covering the child
- Health expenses that exceed $100 a year, including payments for speech therapy, hearing aids, braces, physiotherapy, glasses, etc.
- Expenses for post-secondary education such as tuition, books, stationery for college or university
- Special expenses for extraordinary needs that the child might need in primary or secondary school. These might include private schooling or special needs education
- Expenses related to extracurricular activities for the child
You should also note that not all expenses fall comfortably within either section 7 expenses or usual expenses anticipated within the table amount. There might be confusion about how extra expenses like cell phones, laptops, bus passes, or similar expenses should be treated.
If you are facing this dilemma, a profession can help determine how these expenses should factor into your child support payments.
How are section 7 expenses calculated?
Generally, section 7 expenses are calculated by the parents based on what they believe to be reasonable and necessary extra payments. If there is no agreement about these payments, or if both parents agree that no section 7 expenses apply, then the applicable child support payment will be only the table amount in the Guidelines.
The amount to be paid by each parent will be calculated based on the gross income of each parent. The parent who earns more per year will often be required to pay the greater share of the amount. For instance, if one parent earns $65,000 per year while the other earns $35,000, the payment will be split by 65% and 35% respectively. Where the parents choose to, they might agree to split the section 7 expenses equally, meaning they each pay 50%.
But what happens in a case where the parents share custody of their child? The law only regards parents to have shared custody when the child spends more than 40% of their time with each parent. Where this is the case, both parents have an obligation to pay child support.
They will be required to calculate their child support payments individually, including whatever section 7 expenses are agreed on. However, the actual amount to be paid will be the difference between their child support obligation. For instance, if they determine that Parent A will pay $1,000, while Parent B has an obligation of $700, then Parent A will pay $300 to the Parent B.
Do I have to pay Section 7 expenses?
Section 7 expenses are expected to be agreed upon by the parents, except where the payment is ordered by the court. If you and the other parent have come to an agreement about these expenses, then you might be bound to pay according to the agreement. This will especially be the case where the agreement has been lodged with the court.
However, there are many circumstances where you might be able to contest these expenses. For instance, if you believe that the expenses are not reasonable or that the other parent has withheld information regarding the expenses, you can apply to the court to for a review.
The court will consider whether the expense should qualify as special or extraordinary based on several factors including:
- The nature of the expense
- Each parent’s income
- The child’s special needs or talents
How to enforce section 7 expenses?
First, consider how the section 7 expenses were determined. If the expenses were agreed upon in a separation agreement, then you need to register the agreement with the court, if you have not already done so. Once registered, the agreement counts as a court order.
If you already have a court order, the payment will be enforced automatically by the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) aka Family Responsibility Office (FRO). If the court order is already enrolled with the MEP/FRO but the other parent is not complying, you can contact your enforcement officer with the details of your situation.
You can also contact a professional who can proffer advice about your situation and the next steps to enforce your section 7 expenses
Although they are meant to provide extra support for the children, determining and collecting section 7 expenses can be a complicated affair. Having a well-crafted Separation Agreement will help you clarify exactly what should be included in these expenses, how they should be calculated, and who is expected to pay.
Are you having trouble reaching an agreement on your finances? Do you want to avoid going before the judge and asking for help? Consider working with a family mediator who can help you end your marriage in a way that is peaceful, cost-effective, and child-focused.
Would you like to learn more? Get in touch for a Get Acquainted Call to learn more about finding a separation agreement with a soft landing.
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