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It is a common misunderstanding that once separated parents share the parenting time on an approximately equal basis that no child support will be payable by either party. This is simply not the case. It is, however, possible that your parenting schedule could change your monthly child support payment from the amount prescribed under the Child Support Guidelines.

A parenting schedule that has the children spending less than 40 percent of the time with one parent will result in the parent who has the children less frequently paying the full amount of child support to the parent who has the children more than 60 percent of the time. The only exception to this rule is if the payor parent has satisfied the court that he or she is suffering 'undue hardship' resulting in a reduction to the monthly child support payment. This is a very difficult test to meet, and a discussion of 'undue hardship' as it relates to child support is best left for another day.

Once the 40 percent threshold has been surpassed, and children are spending approximately equal time with each parent, then the child support obligation of each parent is determined under the guidelines based on their respective incomes. Whoever has to pay the higher amount will typically pay the difference between the two amounts to the other parent, unless the court is satisfied that the amount should be adjusted one way or the other to accommodate the needs of the children.

This 40 percent threshold can be extremely frustrating for parents who are spending close to, but not quite, 40 percent of the time with their children. Unfortunately, the court will not apply this shared parenting calculation unless the 40 percent threshold has been met.

Another frustrating factor is that the calculation of 'time' can be done in different ways, and depending on the method of calculation, a parent could fall just below or just above the 40 percent threshold on the same parenting schedule. Courts have said that a calculation of hours or days is an acceptable method to use. Calculating based on overnight periods, however, does not seem to be accepted by the courts.

Ultimately, child support in shared parenting arrangements can become a complicated issue and is dependent on the particular facts of each family's unique circumstances. For this reason it is always best to speak with a lawyer before finalizing any child support arrangements to be sure your solution is, in fact, right for you.


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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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