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Separation and Divorce: Child Support

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When is basic child support different from the table amount?

The Child Support Guidelines say that the amount of basic child support can be different from the table amount for different reasons. Here are a few situations when basic child support might be different:

Step-parents

A step-parent might pay an amount that is different from the table amount. They might pay less if, for example, there is another parent who also pays child support.

Shared custody

If each parent has the child at least 40% of the time, the Child Support Guidelines say they have shared custody. In this situation, the amount of support paid might be less than the table amount because it is assumed that both parents are paying for the child's ordinary expenses.

The parent who claims to have shared custody has to prove that the child is with them at least 40% of the time.

Time is usually calculated by counting the time the parent is responsible for the child, not the time that the parent is physically with the child.

For example, the time the child is at swimming lessons or school counts as time with the parent who is responsible for the child during that time.

The Guidelines do not say exactly how to calculate support in a shared custody situation. They say that child support should consider several things. Usually, this means first looking at the table amount for each parent based on their gross annual income. The smaller table amount is subtracted from the larger table amount. The remaining amount is called the set off. The parent who would pay more in child support pays the set off to the parent who would pay less in child support.

But the set off amount might be more or less depending on:

  • the added costs of a shared custody plan, such as if both parents have extra housing or food costs
  • each parent's situation, such as if they live with a new partner who shares expenses, or have other dependents to support

Split custody

When parents have more than one child, sometimes, one child lives most of the time with one parent and the other child lives most of the time with the other parent. This is called split custody.

When this happens, each parent usually pays the table amount for any children living with the other parent. The parent who has to pay the higher amount must pay the difference to the other parent.

Shared custody and split custody are terms used in the Child Support Guidelines to refer to the amount of time a child spends with each parent. They do not mean the same thing as sole custody and joint custody. Sole custody and joint custody refer to the right to make major decisions about a child.