If the children primarily live with one parent, the other parent is required to pay base section 3 child support pursuant to the Alberta Child Support Guidelines or Federal Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines are based on the payor parent’s income, usually determined by the most recent tax return or, if the last tax return is inaccurate as to current income, child support can be based upon current income information. This base support is meant to be a contribution to expenses that every child has, no matter the child’s particular needs or circumstances. For example, food, clothing, and shelter. Child support is impacted by shared parenting.

Shared parenting means that both parents have care of the children for at least 40% of the time; it does not require each parent to have equal parenting time. Because a parent who has care of the children for at least 40% of the time theoretically incurs significant expenses for the children, it is appropriate that the amount of child support is adjusted to reflect this. The adjustment is usually calculated by way of a “set-off”, based on your individual incomes, even though this is not the correct approach under the Guidelines.

To determine the set-off amount of support, the base section 3 amount is calculated for each parent. The lower number is then subtracted from the higher number. For example, if the higher income parent would have to pay the other $1,000 a month if the other parent had primary day-to-day care, and the lower income parent would have to pay the higher income parent $300 month, then the higher earning parent would have to pay the lower income parent $700 a month.

If the parents have shared parenting and they earn the same income, no one would pay any base child support to the other. In a shared parenting arrangement where one parent has nominal or no income, such as in the case of a parent who does not work outside the home and the other parent works full-time, the working parent may have to pay the other full child support, even though that parent has the responsibility and expense of the children for at least 40% of the time.