Caution: This page contains ONLY GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION.
It is NOT LEGAL ADVICE nor a replacement for talking to a lawyer
and getting legal advice about your case.
The law can be complicated and the details of a case can be even more complicated!
There are exceptions for every rule.
What you do not know can harm you. Do not rely on general legal information.
AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Who is Obligated to Support a Child?
All parents (whether biological or adoptive parents or anyone who has put themselves in a position of a parent) have an obligation to financially support their child.
When is a "Child" Entitled to Support?
With certain exceptions, a child is entitled to support if the child:
is under eighteen (18) years of age; or
is over eighteen (18) years of age and:
is in a full-time course of education, or
if the parents were married and the child is "unable to withdraw from parental care" due to a disability or certain other reasons.
There is no set age entitlement ends for an adult child in school. The decision depends on many factors such as age, education history, education plans, expectations prior to separation, etc. Usually, a child is, at least, entitled to support for one college or university degree (two to four years).
A parent is entitled to receive support for a child if the child is living in their care. This can include a child (entitled to support) who is living away from the parents home because of schooling (e.g. living in residence) or for temporary employment.
A child may be entitled to support if they are living on their own. There can be a question of whether the child's decision to leave parental care was justifiable. If the child is living in a non-parent's care, that person may be entitled to support.
How is the Amount of Support Determined?
The amount of support payable is govern by the Child Support Guidelines. In most cases, this is a matter of looking up on a table the payor's gross (i.e. before tax) income and the number of children. (This amount is referred to commonly as the "Table Support".) The support amounts are based on statistics of what the average parent will spend on a child, given that parent's income.
In this calculation, the following are NOT factors in determining the amount of support:
the ability of the other parent to contribute to the support of the child
income taxes of the payor
the expenses and debts of the payor
A parent has an obligation to make reasonable efforts to obtain a reasonable income. If a judge believes a parent is not making reasonable efforts, income may be "imputed" - set at an amount that the judge believes the parent could earn. A judge may also impute income if the judge believes the payor's evidence of income is incomplete or false.
An adult child is expected to contribute to their own support, as best they can under the circumstances.
There are a number of exceptions (and other rules for calculating support where these exceptions exist). For example:
where each parent has children from the relationship in his or her care
where the child spends 40% or more of their time with each parent
the payor is a step-parent
the child is an adult
What About Extracurricular Activities & Special Expenses?
Over and above the table support, a payor may have to contribute to some special expense. These are expenses that are not considered to be cover under the table support. For example,
extracurricular activities, such as sports, dance, music, hobbies, the arts
tutoring or private school
medical or dental expenses, if they are more than $100 per year
special diets that are medically necessary
These expenses must be reasonable, given:
the benefit to the child;
the financial resources of the payor
any history of incurring these expenses prior to separation
Any tax deduction, grant, or similar deduction reduces the amount of the expense claimed.
These special expenses are divided between the parents based on their gross incomes. (If their incomes are the same, they each contribute the same amount to the net amount of the special expense.)
When is the Amount of Support "Unconscionable"?
A judge could order a different amount of support than the normal support, if it would be "unconscionable" as the law defines it. The most common reason for this is that the payor is supporting other children.
However, even when it is "unconscionable", there must be less income, per person, in the payor's home than in the recipients. (The actual Comparison of Household Incomes test is a bit more complicated.)
What About Heath Related Benefits?
A payor can (will) be ordered to maintain health benefits for the child, especially if they are available through employment. The payor is expected to cooperate with the recipient's use of the benefits for the child.
What Restrictions on Agreements and Divorces Are There?
A judge has an obligation to ensure that appropriate support is paid for children. If support comes before the court, an agreement between the parties for support MUST reflect the Child Support Guidelines. Proof of income will be required.
If a party seeks a divorce and there are (minor / underage) children, then evidence must be given to convince the judge that appropriate support arrangements have been made. Without this, the divorce will not be granted.
Where Can You Get More Information?
There are, as always, exceptions and complications.
See these articles: