What Are Section 7 Expenses?
Establishing an appropriate amount of child support is one crucial part of the divorce process for parents. The Canadian federal government provides tables, worksheets, and other tools to allow parents, lawyers, and the courts to determine the base amount of child support that is suitable following a separation. These basic payments are based on the paying parent’s income, the province where they live, and the number of children they support. The goal of the basic child support payments is to help the parent with the majority of the parenting time meet the standard living expenses for their child, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
However, some children may have additional needs and expenses exceeding the standard child support amount. A share of these further costs may be added to the base child support amounts in step 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines and are commonly referred to as section 7 expenses. An expense may qualify as a “special or extraordinary expense” if the requesting spouse can prove it meets these federal guidelines:
- It is necessary because it is in the child’s best interests.
- It is reasonable based on the parents’ incomes and previous spending patterns before the divorce.
Establishing section 7 expenses as part of your separation agreement is vital to ensuring your child can continue with activities that improve their quality of life. A helpful Ontario child support lawyer can help you determine if your child has valid section 7 expenses and explain what happens if you and your ex cannot agree on these costs.
What Are Common Examples of Section 7 Expenses?
The definition of what constitutes a standard living cost versus an extraordinary expense for a child contains many gray areas. If you are facing a disagreement with your ex or have questions about whether something may be considered a section 7 expense, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer who can guide and help you.
Some typical section 7 expenses may include:
- Costs for childcare if you have your child the majority of the time and require care services due to your employment, education, or an illness or disability.
- Healthcare expenses over $100 for your child that aren’t covered by insurance, such as counseling services, dental care, or medications.
- Medical and dental insurance premiums for your child’s coverage.
- Costs for your child’s extracurricular activities, including equipment, fees, travel expenses, and more, if they are more than you can reasonably pay or are extraordinary.
- Education expenses that are above and beyond typical costs if they are necessary for the child’s needs. It may include special education programs, tutoring, or private schooling.
- College or other post-secondary education costs.
While these are some illustrations of the type of costs Section 7 expenses may cover, it is essential to note that the exact payments included in your support agreement can vary significantly. As stated above, the financial situation of you and your former spouse, the requirements of your child, and your lifestyle before the divorce will all play a role in determining whether a special or extraordinary expense is reasonable and necessary.
What Happens if Parents Do Not Agree on Section 7 Expenses?
In most cases, parents must agree on section 7 expenses for them to be included in a child support agreement. While it is possible for the court to order section 7 expenses, it is relatively uncommon. Negotiating an agreement with your former spouse is the ideal way to ensure all necessary childcare expenses are covered. If you believe that section 7 expenses are essential for the well-being and development of your child, enlisting the help of a child support lawyer who is also a skilled mediator can be critical.
For your agreed-upon expenses to be enforceable in the event of a future disagreement or misunderstanding, your documentation should include specific information about each item, such as:
- A detailed description of what the expense is for.
- The full cost.
- What date payments are due.
- The exact amount you and your spouse will each contribute to the expense.
- Any other relevant data, such as the impact of any subsidies or benefits and who will be eligible to claim tax credits related to the expense.
Can You Contest Section 7 Expenses?
It is possible to contest the need for a requested expense at any point during the separation agreement negotiation process. Just be sure you are centering your child’s best interests and not refusing a section 7 expense purely due to personal disagreements with your spouse. Engaging in the latter behavior can negatively impact the court’s view of your case and may result in undesirable outcomes.
If you have already filed your separation agreement with the court, you are obligated to pay the child support amount stated in the document, including any section 7 expenses. However, you may be able to contest the agreement if you find out that the other parent misrepresented the situation or you have a valid argument against the necessity or reasonableness of the expense in light of new information. Child support modification requests can be complex, so it is highly recommended to reach out to a trusted lawyer if you are considering contesting your agreement.
How Can an Experienced Child Support Lawyer Assist You?
Working out a separation agreement can be very emotional and stressful. You may hesitate to ask for increased child support because you worry your former spouse will disagree or become upset. However, ensuring your child’s needs, including section 7 expenses, are covered by your child support agreement is key to their upbringing and your financial stability.
A skilled child support lawyer from Anthony Family Law can help you determine what expenses are appropriate and mediate between you and your spouse as you negotiate your divorce. If you cannot reach an agreement, our firm can provide strong representation in court to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case so you can move forward with confidence. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free initial case evaluation: 647-933-2397.