Section 7 Expenses for Children with Special Needs
By Matthew Katsionis, Senior Family Lawyer, Vancouver
There are two main categories of child support in Canada under the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Section 3, which is the regular monthly amount, and Section 7 expenses, often referred to as special or extraordinary expenses, which are expenses for children that are in addition to the ongoing monthly amount. Some of the most common expenses are:
- Extracurricular activities such as swimming, piano lessons, soccer, dance, camps, etc.;
- Tuition and school expenses including field trips;
- Medical and dental expenses that are over and above extended medicals or third-party insurance premiums.
We often get asked, is there a cap to how many section 7 expenses a parent ought to incur? There is no hard and fast cap rather it is a matter of what is reasonable for that individual family.
For example, parties earning median incomes of approximately $70,000 should not be expected to share in costs for an exorbitant costly section 7 activity. A working example may be horseback riding lessons that costs $20,000 per year. However, if this was an activity that the child(ren) enjoyed throughout the marriage or relationship it could be deemed to be reasonable.
But what about children with special needs? Children with special needs have section 7 child support expenses that are typically well beyond medical insurance and premiums. What is “reasonable” for a parent to have to pay? What kind of limit is there?
The courts have been very clear that necessary section 7 child support expenses for children with special needs must be paid. There is not necessarily a “cap” except when there are limited financial means on the part of the payor parent to pay. However, in such cases the court takes a very close look at the finances of the payor. Financial hardship is a very difficult argument to make in the face of expenses for a child with special needs.
For example, a child who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may require one or more of a plethora of services that are over and above extended medical insurance coverage such as having a behavioral therapist or behavioral interventionist, occupational therapist, psychologist, counselor, speech therapist, etc. The court will assume that these section 7 expenses are reasonable and in the best interests of the child and the only question is can the payor parent afford it. All information regarding income and budgets will need to be shared as the court will look for all available sources of funds to pay these expenses.
It is important to note that the court will usually defer to the experts, whether it is a psychologist or a doctor who has made an assessment or diagnosis, a counselor or therapist (such as a behavioral therapist or interventionist) and any other medical professionals who have the expertise to make a diagnosis and determine what services best serve the child’s needs.
As the parent who is seeking section 7 child support for a child with special needs, it is important to do the following in preparing for your matter:
- Obtain any reports from the medical professionals in your child’s life;
- Make efforts to obtain or otherwise attempt to obtain third party funding. There are many organizations that provide funding or resources.
- If your former spouse is not providing adequate support, be proactive. Send texts or e-mails requesting support, and if it is not progressing, move forward through the court; and
- Keep all of the receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses you incur for the special needs treatments, assessments, therapies, etc.
If you are looking for assistance in a child support matter involving section 7 expenses, the Vancouver family lawyers at Crossroads Law have extensive experience in these types of files. This includes successful outcomes at mediation, arbitration, and trial. Contact us for your free consultation now.