Who Gets Child Support in British Columbia? A Clear Guide for Parents

Who Gets Child Support in British Columbia? A Clear Guide for Parents

Raising a child is a rewarding yet a significant financial responsibility. In British Columbia, both parents share the legal obligation to support their children financially, even if they are no longer together. This blog post provides a clear and concise guide for BC parents navigating the child support process. Whether you’re a separated couple, a single parent, or simply seeking clarification on your rights and responsibilities, this post will equip you with the essential information on who gets child support in British Columbia. We’ll explore the legal framework, eligibility criteria, and factors influencing the amount of child support awarded. By understanding these key aspects, you can ensure your child’s well-being is prioritized, and all parties involved have a clear picture of their financial obligations.

What Is Child Support?

What Is Child Support?

Child support refers to financial assistance provided by one parent or guardian to another. This contribution helps cover the costs of raising a child after a separation or when parents aren’t living together.

The amount of child support is typically determined using specific tables outlined in the Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines consider the number of children involved and the parent’s income-paying support. While exceptions to these guidelines may exist in certain situations, the tables serve as the primary tool for calculating child support in most cases.

What Does Child Support Cover in BC?

What Does Child Support Cover in BC?

Child support in British Columbia aims to ensure both parents contribute financially to the basic costs of raising their children, even after separation. This goes beyond just covering daily needs; it’s a shared responsibility.

Here’s what child support typically covers:

  • Basic Needs: This includes essential expenses like food, clothing, and housing costs (rent, mortgage, utilities).
  • Regular School Costs: School supplies, extracurricular activities, and other routine educational expenses may be factored in.

The custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives primarily) also contributes to these expenses through their resources.

Special or Extraordinary Expenses

In addition to the basic “Table amount” calculated by the Child Support Guidelines, additional contributions may be required for:

  • Section 7 Expenses:  Defined in the Federal Child Support Guidelines, these encompass costs beyond everyday needs, such as childcare and medical expenses not covered by insurance or private tutoring.
  • Sharing of Costs:  These “special” expenses are generally shared proportionally based on each parent’s income, although parents can agree on a different arrangement. Often, parents opt to split section 7 expenses equally.

Remember, clear communication and potential agreements between parents can help manage these additional expenses effectively.

The Child Support Guidelines: A Roadmap for Fair Support

The Child Support Guidelines: A Roadmap for Fair Support

The federal Child Support Guidelines provide a clear and structured framework for calculating child support payments in British Columbia. These guidelines apply to all separated parents, regardless of their previous marital status (married, common-law, or never cohabited).

The guidelines’ underlying concept is that both parents should continue financially supporting their children at a level similar to that of a married couple. This ensures a fair and balanced contribution to the child’s well-being.

Calculating Child Support

The guidelines outline a table-based system for determining the monthly child support amount. This table considers two key factors:

  • The Paying Parent’s Income: The higher the income, the greater the contribution towards child support.
  • The Number of Children: The number of children supported influences the overall child support amount.

In most cases, judges are required to follow the Child Support Guidelines when determining child support. However, the system has some flexibility.

Parents can use the guidelines as a starting point for reaching a mutually agreeable child support arrangement. Some adjustments can be made if the agreed-upon amount is reasonable and considers the guideline amount. For example:

  • The paying parent might agree to directly cover specific expenses like sports activities, potentially reducing the monthly child support payment.
  • One parent might relinquish their rights to the family home for the other parent and child to reside in, understanding that this is offset by lower monthly child support payments.
Who Pays Child Support and How Much?

Who Pays Child Support and How Much?

Determining who pays child support and the amount hinges on two key factors: primary residence and parenting arrangements.

  • Primary Residence:  If one parent is the primary caregiver, with the children living with them most of the time, the other parent is typically responsible for child support payments.
  • Parenting Arrangements:  In shared parenting situations, where children spend roughly equal time with both parents, a “set-off” approach is often used. Each parent calculates the child support amount they owe based on their income and the Child Support Tables. The higher-earning parent then pays the difference between the two calculated amounts to the lower-earning parent.
Who Is Entitled to Child Support in BC?

Who Is Entitled to Child Support in BC?

Every child in British Columbia has the right to financial support from both parents. This support is paid to the parent with whom the children live most of the time. This ensures the child’s basic needs and expenses are met. In situations where children have roughly equal time with both parents, the financial responsibility may shift. The parent with the higher income usually pays the child support to the other parent to help balance the financial burden of raising the children.

It’s important to remember that a parent’s obligation to pay child support doesn’t depend on their relationship with the other parent. The focus remains on fulfilling the child’s needs. Additionally, a parent’s right to maintain a relationship with their children is separate from child support payments. There are legal channels to address situations where a parent falls behind on child support payments.

Can I pay my child’s support directly rather than the other parent?

Child support payments in BC typically go directly to the other parent, ensuring the funds are used for the child’s needs. In rare circumstances, judges might order payments to be made directly to a child who has reached or surpassed the age of majority (typically 19 in Canada). This decision hinges on the specific family situation and whether direct payment is appropriate.

What can I do if the other parent is late or refuses to pay their child support?

Facing late or missed child support payments can be a concern for many parents in BC. Fortunately, there’s recourse available through the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). If you have a written agreement or court order for child support, enrolling with FMEP allows them to enforce the terms and help you collect missed payments, even in cases of late payments or complete refusal.

Remember, child support and parenting time are separate matters. You cannot withhold access to the children due to late fees, and the paying parent cannot use child support as leverage to control parenting time. If you’re facing challenges related to child support enforcement, the FMEP can be a valuable resource to ensure your child receives the financial support they’re entitled to.

Bottom Line

Understanding child support in BC empowers you to ensure your child’s well-being is financially supported. This guide clarifies who receives child support, how it’s calculated, and what it covers. Remember, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) can assist with enforcing child support agreements or orders. If you have questions or require legal advice, consulting a lawyer specializing in family law is recommended.


Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.