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It’s September and that means back to school for most kids all across Ontario and the rest of Canada. If you are a parent with school age children, it is likely that you have fallen prey to “back to school” advertising and requests for up-to-date sports equipment, clothing, lunch boxes, sneakers and cool school supplies. When I went to school, this meant Notetotes and Bensia Panda Kawai pencils (look them up, you will understand) but in 2013 this could mean anything from an iPhone, a tablet or even desktop computer.

If you pay child support, or are the recipient of child support, you likely know that things like sporting equipment and some school fees are considered as special or extraordinary expenses. These are commonly referred to as section 7 expenses in accordance with s.7 of the Ontario Child Support Guidelines, which can be found at:

Section 7 expenses are separate and apart from regular child support, and are generally shared in proportion to each party’s income. Some of these are considered special, for example dental fees or secondary-school tuition. Others are considered extraordinary, such as sports fees or private school. If parents cannot agree on what these expenses are or how to share them, a court will inevitably decide for them.

In deciding what should be considered a section 7 special or extraordinary expense, a trial judge will consider a number of core factors including the incomes of both parents, the pattern of spending on such activities prior to the parents’ separation (if applicable), the ability of the child or children to contribute to the expenses, and whether those expenses that would fall under an “extraordinary” category under the Guidelines are truly extraordinary or should be covered by the table amount of child support.

For more information on how courts determine what constitutes a reasonable section 7 expense, you can read the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Titova v. Titov, which can be found here: In this case, the court implied that depending on the circumstances of the family, school books and school registration may not qualify as extraordinary. Ordinary expenses are covered by the basic table amounts.

Unfortunately, unlike your school supply list, there is no checklist defining what is, or is not, a special or extraordinary expense for you, because every family is different.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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