The mother of three children sought a variation of child support and the payment of special and extraordinary expenses. The father agreed he had to pay monthly child support of $1,161 based on his increased annual income of $62,828, but said he could not pay more than this table amount. The mother wanted the father to pay his proportionate share of child care expenses and guitar lessons for the 10-year old son, figure skating expenses for the 16-year old daughter and Spell Read expenses for the 13-year old son, totalling $5,060/year. The mother had an annual income of $51,989 and received an additional $12,732 annually from the current level of child support.
- Are these "extraordinary expenses" under s. 7?
The definition of "extraordinary expenses" is given in s. 7(1.1) and requires that the court take into account the reasonableness of the expense in relation to both the means of the custodial spouse as well as the needs/talents of the children.
Are, then, the requested expenses extraordinary? There is no indication that the Guidelines mean to make this a significant hurdle for custodial parents to overcome. "Extraordinary" does not refer to higher cost than the average for that type of activity, nor does it have to be an extraordinary type of activity. Some expenses are inherently extraordinary, i.e. not factored into the basic support table. Nor does the child does not have to have a special talent for it to be extraordinary; as long as it's necessary and in their best interests, it is a s. 7 expense. MacDonald, looking to welfare income determinations, holds that a 1% cutoff is a reasonable threshold for extraordinary expenses; anything above that line can be claimed under s. 7.
Turning then to s. 7(1), is the expense "necessary" and "reasonable"? The necessity should be, like most child related determinations, in relation to the child's best interest, and the reasonableness of the expense in relation to the means of the spouses and to the family's spending pattern prior to the separation. On the facts of the case at bar, MacDonald sees no reason why the husband cannot pay his share (55% based on income) and makes an order to that effect.
Provides guidelines for interpreting s. 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines
The 1% determination used here is a unique approach which is not followed across the country.