The Federal Child Support Guidelines allow for the sharing of “special or extraordinary” expenses for children, proportionate to their incomes. This is in addition to basic child support calculated under the Guidelines.
The issue of what is “special or extraordinary” comes to court often. Even more frequently, this issue is part of out-of-court discussions, negotiations, and arguments.
Children have so many expenses. What is extra, and what is not? These cases are really fact-specific. Typical section 7 expenses are child care expenses and uninsured medical and dental expenses, however, the list of potential other expenses is limitless.
Justice John Harper of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found in Marunic v. Liberty, 2014 ONSC 957, that given a total family income of over $120,000 per year, and the fact that the cell phones were used by the father to communicate with the children directly while in the mother’s care, because of poor communication between the parents, that the cell phone costs were “special or extraordinary” under section 7 of the Guidelines. The father was therefore required to pay a share of the costs.
In reaching this decision, Justice Harper considered a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Andrews v. Andrews (1999) 45 O.R. (3rd) 577, where the court set out the requirements for an expense to qualify under section 7:
- the expense must be extraordinary;
- the expense must be necessary in relation to the best interest of the children; and
- the expense must be reasonable having regard to the means of the parents and their spending patters for the children during cohabitation.
He referred to another decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Park v. Thompson (2005), 77 O.R. (3d) 601, which found that the cell phones did not qualify as a special or extraordinary expense. However, each case had to be examined on its own facts. In Marunic v. Liberty, they did qualify.
There were other fairly typical claims considered in this case. The mother was asking for contribution to expenses for competitive swimming of $3,030 per year, football costs of $350 per year and a school trip costing $350. The father said that these expenses should be part of base child support, and even if they were not, he did not consent to the swimming expense and it was not reasonable given his income.
Justice Harper noted that there was no requirement that the parents consent to the expense before the child was enrolled in activity. The father did not object to the child participating in swimming, only to sharing the costs.
The swimming, football and school trip costs were found to be extraordinary, given the mother’s income of $80,000, and in the children’s best interests. Those costs and the necessary equipment for the sports were to be shared by the parents in proportion to their income. The resulting cost of approximately $64 per month to the father was reasonable.