What are Section 7 Expenses?
Under Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the Alberta Child Support Guidelines a parent may be obligated to pay, or entitled to receive, an additional amount of child support over the monthly base amount. The additional amount is intended to cover special or extraordinary expenses for the child, and may cover all or a portion of the following expenses for a child:
- childcare expenses incurred as a result of the custodial parent’s employment, education, or training for employment;
- medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child;
- health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, including orthodontic treatment, professional counselling provided by a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or any other person, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses and contact lenses;
- extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education or for any other educational programs that meet the child’s particular needs;
- expenses for post-secondary education; and
- extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities.
When a Child Support Application is brought before the Court that specifically addresses Section 7 expenses, the Court will consider the necessity of the expense in relation to the child’s best interests, and the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the spouses and those of the child, and to the family’s spending pattern prior to the separation.
To determine whether a Section 7 expense is necessary, the Court will consider whether the expense serves the best interests of the particular child for which the expense is being incurred. The Court may consider whether the child has any unique needs, interests or gifts that may make a certain expense necessary for that child. Not all children will be determined to have the same needs or requirements, and the Court will determine the necessity of an expense for a child on a case-by -case basis.
In considering the reasonableness of a Section 7 expense, the Court will look to the financial means of the family. Again, the Court will determine the reasonableness of a suggested Section 7 expense for a child on a case-by-case basis. What may be considered a reasonable expense for a child in one family may be entirely different from what is considered a reasonable expense for a child in another family.
Family Spending Patterns
Court’s in Alberta will also consider the family’s historic spending patterns to determine whether a suggested expense is a Section 7 expense. In general, the aim is to maintain a child’s lifestyle as it was prior to the separation of their parents, and therefore a Justice or Judge hearing an application, may very well not order Section 7 expenses that are viewed as excessive or extravagant in comparison to the level of expenditure on Section 7 expenses that were incurred pre-separation. A Justice or Judge may be more likely to determine a Section 7 expense to be shared by the parents if it is consistent with expenses incurred during the parent’s relationship. Of course, the Court will consider the child’s age and changing needs and may allow new expenses to be included in Section 7 as the child gets older if a compelling argument is plead with supporting evidence.
Who pays for Section 7 Expenses?
According to the Federal Child Support Guidelines Section 7 expenses are generally shared between parents in proportion to their respective incomes. Proportional sharing of Section 7 expenses is a general rule, but payors of Section 7 expenses may come to their own agreement on sharing of these expenses by consent or may be ordered to pay a different share pursuant to an order of a Judge or Justice. Additionally, as a child gets older, they may be expected or willing to provide funds for their own Section 7 expenses. In those circumstances, the expense is shared between the parents after deducting the child’s contribution from the total expense.
The Federal Child Support Guidelines also provides that the Court will take into account any subsidies, benefits, or income tax deduction or credits relating to the expense, and any eligibility to claim a subsidy, benefit or income tax deduction or credit relating to the expense in determining the amounts that may be owed for Section 7 expenses by each parent. As such, the Court in its analysis will try to maximize the amount a family may save by using all subsidies, benefits, and income tax deductions available to the parents.
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