What kinds of things potentially qualify as extraordinary expenses?
- childcare needed due to the custodial parent’s employment, illness, or education
- medical premiums, prescription drugs, hearing aids, glasses
- dental premiums and orthodontics
- therapeutic expenses, such as speech therapy and physiotherapy
- professional counselling
- private school costs, if applicable
- expenses for post-secondary education (tuition, books, etc.)
- extracurricular activities
In considering whether or not an expense qualifies, there are two main considerations:
- an expense is not already covered by child support
- whether or not the expense is reasonable
Michael Butterfield noted, “Ice-hockey often comes up as a questionable extraordinary expense, because of the outrageous costs associated with the sport. The courts look at the particular needs and abilities of the child to determine if the expenses are reasonable. If the parent can show that the pursuit of the sport is likely to result in an NHL career, then the expense is likely reasonable. However, if the child has only limited abilities, but the parent is pushing them for what is an unrealistic dream, the expenses will be deemed unreasonable.”
On February 15, 2016, The Honourable Mr. Justice Kelleher clarified what may be considered a reasonable expense in Wallington and Maxwell. Ms. Wallington sought an order for Mr. Maxwell to pay for his share of extraordinary expenses for driver’s education fees ($899) and hang-gliding training ($6,530.51), for their 20 year old son, Jasper.
Ms. Wallington argued that the hang-gliding fees were reasonable, because Jasper aspired to become an aeronautical engineer. Justice Kelleher ruled that despite the hang-gliding being related to aeronautical engineering, it was not a reasonable expense.
The driver’s education program from Young Drivers of Canada was, however, deemed an appropriate expense.
If extraordinary expenses are reasonable, they are normally divided between the parents, based upon their relative incomes. For example, if one parent makes $70,000 and the other $30,000 per year, those additional costs would be shared on a 70% to 30% basis.
In this particular case, because Jasper was the age of majority and attending University, the Judge stated that the child was expected to be responsible for 20% of the costs.
When does child support end? This is not strictly governed by age, but also to what degree the child is independent, capable of supporting themselves, and whether or not they are attending further education. In some cases, the court will also take into consideration whether or not the child has severed ties with the payor parent.
Jayne Embree, M.A.
Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She is currently working with the Administrative Department of Butterfield Law.