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Child Support in Ontario: A Guide for High-Income Fathers from a Lawyer’s Viewpoint

Child Support in Ontario: A Guide for High-Income Fathers from a Lawyer’s Viewpoint

Navigating the complex sea of child support in Ontario can be daunting, especially for fathers with considerable incomes. What if your annual earnings surpass the $150,000 mark? Society seems to whisper about a mysterious threshold, but let’s clear the air – it’s not a matter of black and white.

The calculus of child support isn’t always as straightforward as it appears. This blog post aims to shed light on this intricate matter, walking you through some nuances that only a seasoned legal eye can spot.

The Ontario Child Support Guidelines apply to Ontario cases were divorce is not an issue. The Federal Guidelines apply to divorce cases but both guidelines are pretty much the same.

Online Resources – Your Starting Point: The digital age brings us vast resources, and there’s a particularly useful online tool for retrieving basic child support calculations. However, take caution – while helpful as a starting point, these online tools lack the depth and nuance of the full lawyer subscription version as well as a personalized legal evaluation. They offer a neat arithmetic estimate (but the complexity of your situation demands tailor-made advice). You can find the aforementioned online resource [here].

The Presumption: Flip to section 3. If the kids aren’t adults just yet, the presumption is that the calculator knows best. High-income earners, gear up for a legal tussle to prove otherwise.

Presumptive Rule

  • 3 (1) Unless otherwise provided under these Guidelines, the amount of a child support order for children under the age of majority is
      • (a) the amount set out in the applicable table, according to the number of children under the age of majority to whom the order relates and the income of the spouse against whom the order is sought; and
      • (b) the amount, if any, determined under section 7.

Interpreting Section 4 of the Child Support Guidelines: So, if your income tops $150,000, how do you get a more reasonable and moderate order?  When a parent has less than 40% of the kids’ bunking time, the focus narrows to their total income and the number of children. In cases of fifty-fifty (more or less) parenting, both parents’ incomes enter the stage.

Up to $150,000, section 3 (that I point out above) tells us that you simply take the calculation in the standard tables. For one child, that’s $1,299.  Two? – $2,077.  Three? – $2,698.  You get the idea. For incomes over $150,000, that’s where we cast our eyes upon section 4 where the Guidelines’ approach is nuanced. As demonstrated verbatim by Section 4:

Incomes Over $150,000

  • 4 Where the income of the spouse against whom a child support order is sought is over $150,000, the amount of a child support order is
    • (a) the amount determined under section 3; or
    • (b) if the court considers that amount to be inappropriate,
      • (i) in respect of the first $150,000 of the spouse’s income, the amount set out in the applicable table for the number of children under the age of majority to whom the order relates;
      • (ii) in respect of the balance of the spouse’s income, the amount that the court considers appropriate, having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the children who are entitled to support and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the children; and
      • (iii) the amount, if any, determined under section 7.

This intricate clause is where expertise comes to life – navigating what’s “inappropriate” is a journey through a thicket of legal analysis that benefits from the lawyer’s expertise. I have highlighted a key portion of section 4 over which much ink has been spilled.

The reality, however, is that the closer your income is to $150,000, the less likely it is that there will be any deviation from the arithmetical norm.   Sure, the subsection tells us that now we have a very wide discretion and now we can look at the financial ability of that other parent.  But that does not change my mind where you are close to $150k?  Forget it.

Common Arguments That Falter in Court: Now, let’s address common paths that usually lead to dead ends. Based on a wealth of case law, the following arguments from affluent fathers often run aground in the courts of Ontario:

  1. “I simply can’t afford the payments.” – Personal financial capacity won’t override your child’s entitlement.
  2. “I have other children I need to support.” – A noble concern, yet the law maintains a focus on the children before the court. [Years ago I tried to get a movement going to change the law where there were other kids in other family units. I wanted all kids to be treated equally.  No luck.]
  3. “I can cover the mother’s budget with a lower amount.” – While economic efficiency is admirable, it doesn’t typically sway the standard calculations.
  4. “I’m swamped in debt.” – The court prioritizes child support, often viewing debts as secondary.
  5. “I live where the cost of living is astronomical.” – Regional cost disparities will not likely influence the child support calculation.
  6. “My income is too variable to commit to fixed support.” – The court’s solution? If earnings change, file a Motion to Change.

So, what does work? This is the part of the blog post that you have been waiting for!  There are some limited situations where high income child support payors have, on occasion, succeeded:

      1. Gratuitous wealth transfer divorced from reasonable need: The arithmetically calculated amount is so high that it constitutes a gratuitous wealth transfer from dad to mom. That amount is so high that is in excess of any reasonable need.
      2. Modest Living Standard: We had a fairly modest living standard when we lived together. We did not waste our money. Ie. We had an established lifestyle and I can maintain that lifestyle for the kids in mom’s home with a lower payment than the arithmetically calculated amount might dictate.  [But contrary to that principle, there is a competing principle in the caselaw that says that children should benefit from their father’s increased earnings after separation.   So, I suppose as long as dad’s income stays about the same, maybe dad will succeed.]

Facts can mess up cases.  There might be facts that lead to one conclusion; there may be facts that lead to another conclusion.

Understanding Legal Nuances and Strategies: As we delve deeper into Section 4 and beyond, grasping the entire scope requires more than reading; it demands decoding by someone well-versed in interpreting such laws, bending legal complexity into practical, actionable advice. That’s where the expertise of a skilled lawyer becomes invaluable.

Strategizing for High-Income Earning Fathers: For fathers who stand out in the financial landscape, effective legal strategies are not off-the-rack — they are bespoke suits tailored to fit every unique aspect of your case. Arguing for discretion in child support requires crafting an argument that resonates both with the legal criteria and precedents and the personal circumstances surrounding your children’s needs.

Reach Out for Expert Legal Guidance:  Navigating through the maze of high-income child support calculations? Don’t do it alone. At the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre, leveraging our expertise to provide thoughtful, strategic advice is our commitment to you. We invite you to connect with us, harness our knowledge, and let us channel our expertise into advocating for you and your children’s best interests.


Gene C. Colman Full Disclosure Note: I wrote the first draft of this blog post.  I then used AI to improve it.  I did not fully ascribe to the resulting product; I then gave even further instructions to AI and I then rewrote again over the revised text.  So the final product does have AI elements.  The AI platform that I used is called Co-Counsel by Thomson Reuters.  Here is the [link].

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