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Separation and divorce

Expenses for the child: Who pays what after a divorce or separation?

Buying a winter coat, paying for groceries or tuition... After parents divorce or separate, they often ask themselves who pays what expenses for the child. This will help you decide which one of you is responsible for the expense and for how much.

Does one parent live outside Quebec?

If so, the rules may differ and the information on this page might not apply to you. Consult a lawyer or notary for more information.

Is the expense covered by child support?

To know who should pay the expense and how much, you must first determine whether the expense is covered by child support.

Remember

Child support determines each parent’s contribution based on their yearly income and the custody arrangement. It therefore already covers several expenses.

Support covers two types of expenses:

Expenses for the child’s basic needs

According to the law, the child’s basic needs include:

  • food
  • accommodation
  • communications
  • housekeeping
  • personal care
  • clothing
  • furniture
  • transportation
  • a portion of leisure activities

Expenses under these budget items are therefore covered by child support.

Therefore, groceries, clothing, hygiene products, or furniture for your child’s bedroom might be considered expenses for basic needs and covered by child support.

Important

Some expenses for leisure activities may not be considered basic needs. It depends primarily on the yearly cost for the activity.

Specific expenses included in the child support calculation

When calculating support, other expenses may be included, such as those for childcare services, post-secondary education, etc.

To find out if this applies to you, consult lines 403 to 406 of the Child Support Determination Form or the judgment setting the amount of support.

Expenses for the child’s basic needs

If the expense is for a basic need, who pays for it depends on how often it must be paid.

For current expenses (e.g., rent, electricity, groceries, etc.), each parent pays for the expense when the child is under their responsibility.

For occasional expenses (e.g., winter coat, registration in public school, school supplies, leisure activity, etc.), responsibility for payment depends on how custody is divided between the parents.

  • If the child spends almost the same amount of time with each parent (“shared custody” ), both parents must contribute to these expenses in proportion to their custody time, even if one parent pays the other parent support.

    Example:
    If your child needs a new winter coat and is in 50-50 shared custody, one of you buys the coat and the other has to reimburse the purchaser 50% of the price.
  • If the child spends most of the time with the parent who receives the support (“sole custody” ), that parent pays for these expenses. The parent who pays support does not have to pay an additional contribution.

Specific expenses included in the child support calculation

If the specific expense is included when calculating support, the parent responsible for paying is determined at the same time the amounts are taken into account.

Is the expense considered an “expense relating to the child”?

If the expense is not covered by the child support, is it what is called an “expense relating to the child.”

According to the law, there are three types of expenses “relating to the child”:

  • Childcare expenses: These are expenses required so that a parent can hold employment or study, or because of the parent's health condition, for example.

    Examples: childcare service, day camp, babysitting.
  • Post-secondary education expenses: These are expenses incurred so that the child may pursue studies after high school.

    Examples: college tuition, university tuition, cost of pedagogical materials, transportation or accommodation expenses incurred for post-secondary studies.
  • Special expenses: These are expenses linked to the needs required by the child’s particular situation.

    Examples: medical expenses, psychological care, orthodontist, prosthetics, orthotics, glasses, private school tuition, registration fees for an extracurricular sports or cultural activity, sports equipment, musical instrument, etc.
    Important

    Sometimes, certain expenses for sports or cultural activities are considered expenses that meet the child’s basic needs and are therefore already covered by child support. It depends primarily on the yearly cost of the activity.

You and your ex must both contribute to these expenses, in proportion to your respective incomes.

The expenses must be reasonable, however. That means they must take into account the parents’ financial means and meet the child’s needs.

To learn how much each parent must pay, apply the percentages in line 307 of the Child support determination form to the “net” amount of the expense.

The “net” amount is the amount remaining after any advantage, subsidy, deduction, or tax credit, including any sum granted for student financial assistance (e.g., bursaries ), has been deducted.

Example:

Jamie and Robin have agreed that Jamie will register their child in day camp this summer.

The day camp costs $500. Jamie, however, is entitled to a $200 tax credit for this expense. The “net” amount of the day camp is therefore $300 ($500 - $200 = $300).

Below are the percentages at line 307 of Jamie and Robin’s child support determination form:

  • Jamie: 70 %
  • Robin: 30 %

To determine their respective contributions, apply these percentages to the net amount for the day camp:

  • Jamie's contribution: 70% x $300 = $210
  • Robin's contribution: 30% x $300 = $90

What if the expense is not covered by child support and is not an expense relating to the child?

In this case, the parent who wants to incur the expense must pay for it alone, unless the other parent agrees to pay as well.

Tips to avoid disputes

To avoid disputes, you can agree in advance on the terms for purchases or for the reimbursement of recurring or expected expenses, such as:

  • Winter clothing (coat, boots, etc.)
  • Cultural or sports activities (registration, equipment, tournaments and competitions, etc.)
  • Trips and school outings
  • Cellphone

For example, you can agree on the following:

  • the budget for each category of expense
  • how much time the person who made the purchase has to send the bills and proof of payment
  • how much time the parent who did not make the purchase has to reimburse
  • the terms of payment

 

 

If the parents disagree 

If you disagree on the purchase or reimbursement of expenses for the child, you can try to find some common ground by attending mediation sessions, for example. If you still can’t agree, you can ask a judge of the Superior Court to decide.

If one of you incurs an expense without first consulting the other or taking the other parent’s financial means into account, the other parent might refuse to contribute and a judge might consider the refusal justified.

However, if the judge considers the parent’s refusal was unjustified in the circumstances, the judge can order the parent to contribute to the expense even though the parent was not consulted beforehand.

The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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