Celebrity A-Listers Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt made headlines this week when Jolie filed court documents in Los Angeles, claiming that Pitt has paid “no meaningful child support since separation”. Jolie is requesting the Court to Order retro-active child support from the date of separation. The couple separated in September 2016 after two years of marriage; they have six children (biological and adopted) with ages ranging between 17 to 10.
CHILD SUPPORT IN ONTARIO – HOW DOES IT WORK?
The law requires all parents to financially support their dependent children. In most cases, the amount of child support is determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines say that child support is usually made up of:
- a basic monthly amount, called the table amount AND
- an amount for other expenses, called special & extraordinary expenses
Basic Amount/Table Amount
The “basic amount” (also known as the “table amount”) of child support, is a monthly amount of support paid to cover the child’s everyday expenses like clothes, food, and housing. This amount is based on the following factors:
- the payor’s gross annual income;
- the number of children they have to support and
- the parenting schedule.
The Child Support Table is different for each province. If both parents live in Ontario, the Ontario table applies. If the child support payor lives outside of Ontario (but still in Canada), the Table for that province or territory applies.
Special & Extraordinary Expenses
According to the Federal Child Support Guidelines, parents must share certain expenses over and above the monthly table amount, proportionate to income. “Special expenses” are typically:
- child care expenses;
- Medical expenses not covered by OHIP or insurance;
- Post-secondary education; and,
- Extracurricular activities.
Extraordinary expenses are different from special expenses in that they are irregular in occurrence and quite large in expense (in comparison to the incomes of the parents). The expense must relate to the child’s special needs/talents, be in the child’s best interest and be reasonable, considering the parent’s incomes. Examples can include expenses for competitive sports and specialized educational classes.
In the case of Jolie/Pitt, according to reports, the estranged couple do not agree on child support. Pitt has stated, allegedly, that he has already made adequate child support payments, including an eight million-dollar ($8,000,000.00) loan to Jolie. Lawyers for Jolie argue that the loan was for housing costs, not child support, and that Pitt has been delinquent on payments since date of separation in 2016. Jolie is asking the Court to order Pitt pay child support, including retro-active payments.
WHAT IS RETRO-ACTIVE CHILD SUPPORT?
The law is clear that it is the child support payor’s obligation to ensure that he or she is paying the correct amount of child support. If a child support payor has under-paid or did not pay child support at all, the law allows the child-support recipient to sue for back-dated (or “retro-active”) payments. In Ontario, a child-support payor can be ordered to pay retro-active child support for the past three years and even in some cases, retro-active child support can go past three years where the payor has acted in a blameworthy way. For example, if the payor parent hid their financial information from the other parent.
DO I NEED TO GO TO COURT TO GET CHILD SUPPORT?
Not necessarily. Parents can attend mediation together, whereby they discuss the Child Support Guidelines, their needs and the best interests of the child to create an agreement on child support. If parents agree on the amount of child support, they can document the amount of child support and the pay schedule in a separation agreement.
If parents cannot agree on child support, then they must go to arbitration (for an arbitral award) or court (for a court order) where a third party can make a decision on their behalf. It is always best to start with mediation because of all of the options available, it can be the most cost-effective, timely and most importantly, parents have the most control over the outcome.
Eva Iole DiGiammarino
Hons BA, JD, ADR Cert.