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.
‘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
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
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.
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.
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.