My Ex Spouse Is Not Paying Our Children’s Expenses, What Do I Do?

childcare expenses

This is a more complicated question than in may at first seem.  There are several things you have to consider. The first is whether the expenses are ones that should be paid in addition to child support, which depends on several factors, such as the type of expense and the incomes of the parties.  The second is whether the amount of the contribution is specifically set out in an order or agreement, or whether it must be calculated each time.


What expenses do parent pay in addition to base child support?


There are two components of child support in Ontario and Canada.  The first component is the base or table amount.  That is the amount that is based only on income and the number of children.  To calculate support, you use the tables in the Child Support Guidelines.  Use this page to get the amount of child support  when children live primarily with one parent.  For more complicated situations, start by listening to this podcast or watching this video and read this page.


The second component to child support are Special and Extraordinary Expenses, which are also called Section Seven Expenses because the rules for these payments are set out in section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines.  And, it is also important to realize that special expenses are different from extraordinary expenses:


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Special expenses are things like health care and dental expenses, child care and expenses related to special needs, they are almost always shared by parents.   They also include the cost of post-secondary (college or university) education, but who pays those education expenses can be complicated

11 - Child Support's Special and Extraordinary Expenses

Extraordinary expenses are expenses that are very large in light of the income of the child’s parents but benefit the child because of the child’s extraordinary talents or skills.   These are such things as rep hockey (but probably not house league hockey), swim team (but probably not swimming lessons) or competitive gymnastics (but probably not recreation gymnastics).  A support paying parent does not have to pay for every expenses over and above base child support.  The extraordinary expense must be disproportionately large such that they are too much to be covered by base child support. In addition, there must be a reason why the expense benefits the child.  While every child might want a pony, that does not make it a legitimate extraordinary expense unless the child is a particularly talented rider.  In addition, for the very rich that pony might be part of base child support, but for many other families, the pony may just be unaffordable and so will never be a part of child support.  These are all factors that play into whether parents share an expense in addition to base child support. 


In addition, to the above considerations, section 7(3) of the Child Support Guidelines says that parents only share the after-tax deduction, after subsidy, bursary, etc. cost.   The idea is that parents only share what they are out of pocket.  So,for things like child care, where there may be a significant tax credit, the full amount on the recipe may be much higher than the amount the parents have to share because of the cost of the expense may be significantly reduced by tax credits and subsidies. 


Finally, parents share qualifying special and extraordinary expenses in proportion to their incomes.  If one parent earns his or her income from self-employment or from a means other than salary, figuring out what that parents in come may be can be very complicated. 

The Guide to The Basics of Ontario Family Law


There is a lot to consider, so if special and extraordinary expenses are a concern for you, then you probably need to speak to a good family law / child support lawyer, or at least listen to this podcast, or get a copy of the book at the right to make sure the amount is right. 

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Collecting and Enforcing Special and Extraordinary Expenses

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on KindleKobo Logo

When parents separate, they usually agree, or judge orders, or an arbitrator awards, what special and extraordinary expenses the parents should share  and what proportion of the expenses each parent should pay.  But, there are a number of tricks to consider.


First, some orders or agreements specify what expenses should be shared.  If the order or agreement specifies that only the listed expenses are shared, then the other parent may not have to contribute unless there is a new agreement or order requiring that.  For some expenses, like necessary medical expenses, it is almost certain that a judge will order the parents to share the expense.  In that case, there is no legal reason not to immediately pay the expense and avoid the trouble and cost of going for court.  For other expenses, whether the expense should be shared is more complicated and so it is a good idea to speak to a lawyer before paying an expense that is not part of an order or agreement (unless you want to share the expense).


Second, some orders and agreements specify a specific dollar amount that the child support paying parent must pay every month toward special and extraordinary expenses.  Other agreements state what percentage of the expense each parent will pay.   If you are worried about the other parent paying his or her share of special and extraordinary expenses, then you really want to have a specific dollar amount set in the agreement or order, even if it may occasionally be too low an amount.  This is because the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), will collect the other parent’s contribution to special and extraordinary expenses - but only if there is a specific dollar amount set out in the agreement or order.


Family Court Judge deciding what parents should pay toward special and extraordinary expenses

The FRO will not look at receipts and figure out what amount to collect based on the percentage in an agreement.  It will not figure out the correct contribution in any way.  It will only enforce the specific dollar amounts set out in the agreement. So, if the other parent is refusing to pay his or her share of a special or extraordinary expense, and there is no specific dollar amount set out for the FRO to collect, you will have to go back to court and have a judge set out what the other parent should be paying.  That is the case even if you have an order that sets the specific percentage that each parent pays and receipts that show the exact amount of the expenses.  It is usually possible to get a judge to do this on a motion, but it will likely require fine an updated financial statement, and may require a case conference in addition to the motion hearing.  So, it is often better to specify a specific dollar amount for each parent to pay toward special and extraordinary expenses, even if that amount is a little low, to avoid the cost of going back to court to have a judge to specify the amount that the FRO should collect.


Obviously, if there is no doubt that the other parent will always pay the proper amount of support, you will not need a judge to specify the specific dollar contribution to special and extraordinary expenses, because you will never have to ask the FRO to collect them.


For a helpful and informative discussion of child support enforcement, listen to this edition of Ward and Al Radio show.


The Guide to The Basics of Ontario Family Law

Special and extraordinary expenses can be a difficult, contentious and complicated matter to deal with.  Collecting them can also be complicated and difficult.  To ensure that both the contribution and collection of section seven expenses is correct, you really should speak to a good family lawyer about your specific situation.  Contact Certified Specialist in Family Law (including child support), Family and Divorce Lawyer, John Schuman, by calling 416-446-5847, or emailing him, or using the contact form below.  In addition to seeing a lawyer, for even more information on child support, get a copy of this $20-easy-to-understand book about Ontario Family Law. It can give you a lot of help with child support, most other family law matters, family court process, and all there alternatives to going to court. 


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© John P. Schuman 2012-2015