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Are the Child Support Guidelines fair to the access parent?

By: Steven Benmor, B.Sc., LL.B., Family Lawyer

Jurisdiction: Ontario (Canada)

In 1997, the federal and provincial governments of Canada decided to create a uniform and consistent approach to determining how much child support was to be paid by one parent to the other after they separated. This decision resulted in the creation of the Child Support Guidelines which include Tables that set out the exact amount of child support that is to be paid by the access parent to the parent that has custody of the children.

The Guidelines’ stated objectives are to establish ‘a fair standard of support for children that ensures that they continue to benefit from the financial means of both spouses after separation…and to reduce conflict and tension between spouses by making the calculation of child support orders more objective’. However, a significant void was left in this law. Specifically, the Guidelines treated all access parents in the same way - when in fact there are many different economic consequences to access parents.

To illustrate this by way of an example, consider Joe, Mike and Bill. They are all separated. They each have 2 children whom reside with their ex-wives. All 3 men earn $50,000 per year. According to the Guidelines, each man must pay $700 per month in child support for both children. On its face, this may seem fair. However, Joe is completely estranged from his children and does not have any relationship with them. Mike visits with his children every other Saturday afternoon for 5 hours. Bill has the children with him each and every weekend from Friday night to Sunday night.

As you can see, each one of these fathers spends varying amounts of time with his children and, as a consequence, spends varying amounts of money on the children during their time together. However, all 3 fathers are treated in the exact same way economically.

One of the only few options available to an access parent, is to seek a reduction from the Table amount if the children are in his care for at least 40% of the time. But this does not help Joe or Mike or, especially, Bill - who truly does incur significant expenses to exercise access to his children every weekend. His expenses include an extra bedroom, furniture, clothing, toys, sporting equipment, groceries and meals and recreational costs.

There are many access parents who have been complaining about the inherent unfairness of the Guidelines and how this unfairness directly impacts the quality of care that they are able to provide to their children during access times. They complain that the Guidelines have caused the exact opposite response to their objectives. Access parents such as Bill have found that the Guidelines have ignored the importance of the relationship between the children and the access parent by making money - not the quality of the relationship - a priority. This has invariably caused conflict and tension between spouses - which the Guidelines were supposed to reduce.

Steven Benmor

About the author: Steven Benmor practices Family Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Visit Steven Benmor’s online Family Law Resource Center for concise answers to many more frequently asked Family law questions, feature articles on Family law topics, dozens of links to other Family law websites, and more at The information on this page is for discussion purposes only. It is by no means legal advice or even a statement of the law on this subject. Please do not rely on the accuracy or completeness of this information. Any question or concern elicited by the information on this page should be taken to a lawyer who will consider the facts of each case and the legal remedies available.