Child Support

Frequently Asked Questions About Special Expenses

1. What are ‘special or extraordinary’ expenses?

Special or extraordinary expenses are sometimes called ‘section 7 expenses’ (because this is the section of the Guidelines that explains these expenses). Special or extraordinary expenses are expenses for which ‘extra’ amounts of child support may be paid in addition to the table amount. The Guidelines define special or extraordinary expenses as those that:

  • are necessary because they are in the child’s best interests,
  • are reasonable in relation to the means of the parents and of the child, and
  • are consistent with the family’s spending patterns prior to the separation

When you apply to the court for an order for special or extraordinary expenses, you will have to provide proof of the expense, like receipts.

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2. What can qualify as a special or extraordinary expense?

Only certain expenses can qualify as a special or extraordinary expense, and they are:

  • Child care expenses (resulting from a parent’s employment, illness, disability, education, or training for employment)
    • This includes things like day-care or private babysitting
  • The portion of medical and dental insurance premiums paid to provide coverage for a child
    • If one of the parties has insurance coverage, and pay extra to have coverage for the child(ren), that extra amount being paid may be considered a special expense
  • Uninsured health-related expenses that total more than $100 a year
    • This can include expenses for glasses or contacts, braces, counseling, physiotherapy, speech therapy, prescriptions, or hearing aids
  • Expenses for post-secondary education (college or university)
    • This can include tuition costs, residence costs, or costs for books and supplies
  • Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school or any education programs that meet the child’s particular needs
    • This can include private schooling, or educational programs for children with special needs
    • There is a specific definition for what can be considered an ‘extraordinary’ expense (see below)
  • Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities
    • The table amount is meant to cover a child’s basic activities; however, depending on the situation, some activities may be considered to be ‘extraordinary’
    • There is a specific definition for what can be considered an ‘extraordinary’ expense (see below)

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3. What is an ‘extraordinary expense’?

 ‘Extraordinary expenses’ are defined in the Guidelines in relation to extraordinary expenses for:

  •  primary or secondary school or any education programs that meet the child’s particular needs
  •  extracurricular activities.

In these situations, ‘extraordinary expenses’ generally means expenses that are higher than the parent requesting the amount can reasonably cover, considering their income (including the child support table amount), or expenses that are not higher than those that could reasonably be covered, but that are extraordinary when considering:

  • The income (including child support) of that parent
  • The nature and number of the programs and extracurricular activities
  • Any special needs or talents of the child
  • The  overall cost of the programs or activities
  • Any other similar factors that are relevant

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4. Can I claim an expense I haven’t paid for yet?

Not usually, but it depends on the expense, the likelihood that you will have to pay it, and when that is going to occur. For example, if your child has been accepted to go to a particular university, you may be able to apply to have the other parent contribute to the child's upcoming university expenses. You will have to provide some kind of official document to show what the costs will be, though. If you are unsure what to do in your situation, you should speak with a lawyer for advice.

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5. How do special expenses get calculated?

Generally, parties will share the special expense in proportion to their incomes; however, other arrangements may be considered. For example, if the parties have similar incomes, they will often split the costs of special expenses 50/50. Both parties’ incomes are considered, which is why both parties must file their financial information with the court when special expenses are an issue.

If the child can contribute to the expense, this is also taken into consideration whether or not the child is over the age of majority (19 in Nova Scotia).

The court will look at the net cost of the special or extraordinary expense to determine how much each parent will pay.

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6. What is ‘net costing’?

Net costing is the calculation done to determine what the actual out-of-pocket cost of a special expense is. This means that any tax savings or benefits you receive from claiming a special expense, or any other benefits or subsidies received, get deducted from the total amount of the expense. 

For example, if the total cost to put your child in daycare is $10 000 a year, but you get a tax break of $1000 because you claim the daycare on your taxes, the net cost of the daycare per year is $9000. This $9000 is the amount the court will look at when deciding how much you will contribute to this cost, and how much the other party will contribute.

Some courts will require that you do these calculations yourself. Sometimes this can be done by showing the court your regular income tax return, with the special expense claimed, and a mock (pretend) return with the expense removed, to see what the difference is. If you file your taxes through an accountant or a tax service, they may provide you with the mock return.

There are also computer programs called ChildView and DIVORCEmate that you can use to help with these calculations. Some courts may provide these programs for clients to use, or if you have a lawyer, they may have these programs.

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7. Can the Maintenance Enforcement Program enforce amounts for special or extraordinary expenses?

For information about this issue, please click here.

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8. What court order clauses can be used to help with the enforcement of special expenses?

This article from the Canadian Bar Association gives best practice tips on how to word sections of a court order dealing with special expenses so that they are easier to enforce.

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Last updated on August 24, 2015 - 1:21pm
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