How do we fairly allocate responsibility for child support when a child spends an equal amount of time with each parent? The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Contino v. Leonelli-Contino, 2005 SCC 63, answers this question.
What is Section 9 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines?
Section 9 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines outlines the joint custody scenario, where a parent has physical custody of or access to a child for at least 40% of the year. Under this section, the amount of child support must be determined by considering the amounts outlined in the Guidelines for each parent, the increased costs of shared custody arrangements, and the circumstances of each parent and child.
The Supreme Court of Canada held that section 9 provides a specific regime for shared custody distinct from the presumptive rule in section 3, which requires support according to the Guidelines tables. Additionally, all three factors listed in sections 9 (a), (b), and (c) must be given equal consideration.
Factors Considered in Determining Child Support in Shared Custody Arrangements
Under section 9(a), the court must consider the financial situations of both parents, with a starting point of the parties’ respective Table amounts. However, the court must examine the recipient parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs, given that many costs are fixed. When making variation applications, the court must compare each parent’s actual contributions to the Table amount they would be required to contribute to determining if adjustments to the simple set-off are necessary. The court may vary the set-off amount if it would significantly affect the household standards of living.
Section 9(b) recognizes that shared custody situations may result in greater costs, so the court must look at the actual spending patterns of both parents and the payor parent’s increased costs. These expenses are then divided based on the respective incomes of each parent.
Finally, under section 9(c), the court must analyze the resources and needs of parents and children, including a comparison of the parties’ net worth. The court considers the child’s standard of living in each household and each parent’s ability to maintain an appropriate standard of living. It’s important to note that evidence must be presented on increased costs through financial statements and/or children’s expense budgets. The court should not make assumptions or apply a multiplier without sufficient evidence.