How Does Joint Custody Affect Child Support?

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Parenting arrangements for children are one of the first hurdles parents face when separating. The second is the matter of child support and who pays it. As joint parenting is becoming increasingly common, parents need to understand how such arrangements can affect child support payments. Learn everything you need to know about how joint parenting affects child support and how a child support lawyer in Calgary can help in such matters here.  

Insight From a Child Support Lawyer in Calgary on Joint Parenting

Understanding Joint Parenting in Alberta 

Child-related definitions are constantly changing in Canada and so it is important to consult with family lawyers in Calgary in order to decide which positions to take in your lawsuit. For example, while the ordinary person would consider the word “custody” to mean physical control or possession of a child or a piece of property, the law in respect of children referred to “sole custody” or “joint custody” in respect of which party had the ability to make important decisions in a child’s life.  Today, we call that sole or joint decision-making power or ability.

So too, have terms like “prime custodial care”, “primary parent”, “access parent” and “shared parenting” been replaced with “parenting”.  Until there is an Order in place to the contrary, each party has joint decision-making ability over their children as well as a joint entitlement to parent the children.   

Differences in Parenting

Without an Order, parties would have joint decision-making power and the amount of parenting that the parties agree to apportion between themselves should take into account the practical realities of their employment and the children’s needs. For example, if one party works for significant periods from out of town, it is not practical for each party to have 50/50 shared parenting time with the children.

If the parties can demonstrate the ability to communicate in a cordial manner for the benefit of their children, the Courts are likely to grant joint decision-making power, for major decisions, to both parties. If they cannot, the Court may decide that one party will have sole decision-making power and that person may not even have the requirement to consult with the other party if the acrimony between them is too great.

Expectations of Different Parenting Combinations

Courts take into consideration all of the parties’ circumstances when making a Court Order regarding the division of parenting on a day-to-day basis and when dividing holidays and other special occasions. While 50/50 shared parenting is becoming more and more the norm, one should not enter into a legal process with the expectation that this will always be the case.   There is all manner of parenting combinations that a Court could order, including parenting solely confined to a weekend for one of the parties and during the work week for the other. 

Even 50/50 shared parenting itself can achieve equality in different ways and does not necessarily mean that children would spend one week with one parent and then switch the next week to the other parent, and so on. Regardless of the amount of parenting granted to each party, that party will have the ability to make non-major, day-to-day decisions pertaining to the children when in their respective care.

How Does Joint Parenting Affect Child Support?

Pursuant to the Federal Child Support Guidelines for Alberta, the amount of child support payable, and by whom, is based on the number of children and the time each party parents the children. 

Generally speaking, the party with the least amount of parenting time with the children is responsible for paying child support to the other. That child support will be based on two components:  

  • (1) a monthly amount based solely on the payor’s Guideline Income (what we call section 3 support) and 
  • (2) a monthly amount towards net extra expenses (called section 7 expenses) which both parties contribute towards in proportion to their respective Guideline Incomes.  

Changes to Child Support

Sometimes, the amount of child support may change when a party has 40% or more of the total parenting time with the children. Child support may then be based on three components:  

  • (1) a calculation of a monthly amount payable by one towards the other based on each party’s Guideline Income and setting off these calculations so that the higher earning party pays the difference (what we call section 9 support)
  • (2)  a monthly amount towards net extra expenses (called section 7 expenses) which both parties contribute towards in proportion to their respective Guideline Incomes
  • (3) proportionate sharing of other expenses, including but not limited to such items as school fees, bus passes and clothing.  

Why the difference?  Well, a party that has the children a greater amount of time for parenting receives a higher amount of child support and is expected to pay out the children’s other expenses from this money. However, if the parties have closer to 50/50 shared parenting, it is inequitable for one party, who is now not receiving a higher monthly child support payment, to be out-of-pocket for these other expenses. That would leave one party disproportionately supporting the children to their financial detriment.

How Can a Child Support Lawyer Help?

While people tend to like cookie-cutter solutions, many family lawyers in Calgary know that child support is not necessarily cut-and-dry when shared parenting situations come into play. Your solution may not be similar to that experienced by a friend or a friend of a friend, etc. Every family is considered unique and a child support lawyer in Calgary can advise what your current entitlements to support may be and how that might change in the future if there is a material change in circumstances. Your lawyer’s goal is to ensure that the amount of child support you receive is what you are entitled to by law whether that is achieved through negotiation or Court application.   

There is a brighter future ahead with McLean Legal Family Lawyers. As your dynamic, multi-service family law firm in Calgary, McLean Legal Family Lawyers can offer you personalized legal services tailored to your particular circumstances. We endeavour to resolve matters quickly and with minimal conflict, offering calm, professional, and realistic advice. Given our years of experience in family law, we can assist with your child support, spousal support, divorce, mediation, and separation agreements, as well as civil litigation issues, commercial/corporate services, and real estate transactions. With over 30 years of experience and success, we’re the Calgary family lawyers that offer you a brighter future. Book your free consultation by calling 587-353-2632.

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